The Window

Baby Adam 
Category: Life

My Ma’s new project is getting old movies transferred onto DVD. In some cases it isn’t that hard, like the ones on VHS. The ones on Beta Max, however, are more expensive. But ones on Super 8 reels? I think she promised them her first born grandchild. So I’m hoping my brother is the first to knock someone up. Super 8, for those of you too young to know, is an 8 millimeter home camera that came out in the 70s (?). I’m not sure if any of them had sound, but the one my family had did not.

She got a few of the videos back last night, and I picked them up from her so I could watch. I miss my Grandparents very much. They helped raise me until they contracted cancer. But I was 9 and 10 when they died, and so my memories of them are sparse. And now 20 years later, their voices are far gone, and their faces fade with each passing day. It’s the cruelest facet of time. When someone dies, they disappear from your life. But when you lose your memories… it’s like losing them a second time. Worse, my Mom said she can’t remember their voices anymore either. That scares the living shit out of me. Someday my Mom is going to die, and the last thing I want is to forget any part of her. 

So anyway, I was going through these old videos, looking for my grandparents. And there they were, through strained, grainy Super 8 film… MawMaw and PawPaw were alive again, right in front of me in all their 1980’s glory. It was only a few silent seconds, but it made me smile. I kept watching though. There was my old man, maybe 23 years old, holding me in that way that father’s do when their boys are still babies, but is considered inappropriate at some point. What a fucked up culture we have. And my Ma was 20… 21… 22 as the video went on. There they were, the two of them. Young and in love. Before life got real. Before pain and divorce. Before the death of innocence. They were in love. And happy!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Mom that happy. It was heart breaking. And yet the same time it was beautiful. Looking at myself, it was like staring at some stranger’s child. There was this wonderful, loving family doting upon this quiet, happy baby… innocent and unburdened by fear or doubt or the weight of understanding things that others do not. How could that be me? Was I really that handsome a baby?

Further in. My first birthday. My second. Uncle Sal in his late 20s wearing sunglasses indoors to look cool. Aunt Jo, no longer dead, but a young silly woman with a teenage daughter. Nanny smiling with two happy beautiful children. Hell, my cousin Chris even seemed to like me back then! And family vacations! All of us, cousins, aunts and uncles driving together as a family. There we were in Disney World, back when all that stood was the Magic Kingdom, and I barely recognized it as my old man walked with me through the park. He grabbed my hand as I kept walking. I could almost hear my Mama in my mind’s eye yelling “Mi-CHAEL! Hold his hand before he walks off!” Videos of them having fun. Dad asking his young, beautiful wife… the love of his life… to pose for the camera. Mom showing a little leg. Then later him filming some girl’s butt at a party.

Maybe 10 years later. My brother is barely passed toddler-hood, wearing his little grey suit for his first Communion. Then playing with his younger cousins, still babies themselves, at his birthday party at Chuck E Cheese. Quick shots of me, neither a baby, nor the man I am today. This Adam, he looks so foreign to my eyes. He’s just made his choices to be the person he will be for the next five years, and the burden is there, even if he does not fully realize it yet. His voice cracks with the onset of puberty. And there are my parents again. Happy still, but less so. They were fighting for a long time by then. They won’t be together much longer. And I look at their eyes and wonder if they knew it was coming. The video switches again. My 8th grade graduation. Little brother is back in his suit, running around looking to play. He grabs my hand, but I pull away. The wool jacket is uncomfortably hot in the New Orleans weather. The borrowed tie is tight around my neck. No friends to talk to, not knowing where to be or who to be. It is uncomfortable all around. My parents stand side by side as my Nanny films it all. No happiness there in their eyes. They seem nearly as uncomfortable as I am. But they’re still there together, for me.

I should be more depressed by all this than I am. I shouldn’t feel this joy as I watch time float on by taking my parents’ marriage and my own innocence with it. Instead, I ended it was a sense of gratitude for this window into better times. I am grateful for one moment to have them back.

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