And Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”. – J.R.R. Tolkien
For Christmas I had wanted to give my three wonderful children a gift that only I could give them – my memories of their childhood. For years, I have safeguarded two videotapes of my kids. One was from my youngest daughter’s first month, her sister was two years old and her brother was four years old. And on the second VHS tape they were about two, four and six years old. That tape also had my dear departed mother on it. She died around a year and a half later. I can still feel our last hug. And, sadly, I became a single father a few months afterwards.
The beginning is always today. – Mary Shelley
I haven’t had a working VCR for many years, and so I found a service that could convert the VHS tapes to digital. At the beginning of December I sent the tapes and was updated regularly about the process. My anticipation and happiness grew with each update. I began to hum happy songs and tried to remember what images and scenes were on those tapes. I dreamed of the golden times when my children were little, and their world was small and manageable.
Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are. – Jim Henson
As a single Dad, I tried to be a gatekeeper of sorts between them and the rough shadows of life. The painful series of extinction events leading to my divorce happened around Christmas and New Year’s. But instead of nursing those wounds over the years, I did my best to keep the seasons bright. We made our own fun. I am teary eyed writing this as I recall bedtime stories snuggled together in my daughter’s top bunk (I wrote about that previously).
One scene I am certain is on those tapes is of my barely two year old daughter reading “Goodnight Moon” to her newborn baby sister. My memory of that moment is permanently etched on my soul. But oh the bliss to hear her and see her read her favorite bedtime story to her sister “Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere…” Just typing those words sets me on a soulful journey.
When I was notified the tapes, and digital copies were on their way I was over the moon with joy. I could finally share their sweet tender voices and their beautiful faces with my adult children once again.
Be willing to be a beginner every single morning. – Meister Eckhart
As we grow up and older, many memories coalesce into a sort of general cloud of feelings, flashes of images, and poignant or painful moments. To survive the brier patch of becoming an adult, subconscious survival instincts heal wounds and archive experiences. As for the videotapes, I wanted to be able to turn my heart’s mirror around and show my darling kids what I still see when I look in their eyes. I wanted to let the joyous uplifting feelings of their childhood recharge their spirits during the difficult times. But all that was not meant to be – just yet.
The end is in the beginning and lies far ahead. – Ralph Ellison
I was elated when the package arrived just a couple days before Christmas. I had not felt such happiness at opening a box in many years. But to my horror, there were no digital copies. The tapes had not been converted at all. There was only a label on each tape offering a series of reasons why the tapes could not be digitized – a petrifying hammer-blow to the heart. A shroud of gray descended around me. The company’s system had let me down. If only the first person to inspected the tapes weeks earlier had simply returned them. But once my videotapes were in the process, they rolled on through to the bittersweet end.
The impact of that gut-punch lasted more than a day. But as in all struggles, I reconsidered my options and changed direction. The memories I wanted to give back to my kids would have to patiently wait a while longer. The bittersweet inevitability of time’s passing can trigger great anxiety. We each have unique sets of metrics by which we measure our lives. There are things we regret doing or not doing. But do not regret the things you can still change. Do not let this new year pass without making those changes that could increase your well-being and the happiness of those you care about.
Happy New Year!!! On this first day of the new year let’s all agree to make this year better than last year.
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