In 2000, when our first child was born, my dad bought us a video camera to aid in documenting the special moments.
Although YouTube and America’s Funniest Home Videos intimate otherwise, video cameras are rarely present during the truly special moments.
It was extremely lovely, however, to be able to point that big, clunky camera at our newborns, toddlers, preschoolers in their early years. Later, it was equally fun to capture the kids’ growth and development on a smaller, digital video camera. After I managed to leave that fine investment behind some couch cushions at a pension in Turkey, we replaced it with a cheaper video camera–one that does the job, but not with much finesse. Something about the lower quality coupled with the kids getting older has made us forget to record, has made us neglect the visual documentation that we tracked so faithfully back in the years when the kids were less complex. Thus, we really don’t have many videos of them, outside of their school concerts, during these elementary and middle school years.
In an effort to counteract that negligence, I recently have tried to place our cheapo camera in high traffic areas, in the hopes that I will occasionally remember to grab it and turn it on. Not so interested in “framing a story” or “catching a special moment,” I just want to capture the sounds of the kids’ voices at these ages, to chronicle how they move at this stage of life, to give them something to look back at, should they care to see themselves objectively at some point in the future.
A few weeks ago, as Paco was practicing his saxophone, I spotted the camera nearby and thought, “Hey, I want to remember what it sounded like when we had a novice saxophonist in the house.” Since Paco does not like to be the object of a camera’s attention, I didn’t go stand in the same room with him. Rather, I turned on the camera while in another room and just kept the flow of everything else going. Because I couldn’t see Paco from where I was sitting, I handed the camera to Byron, who was able to train the eye on the boy.
We recorded for not much more than a minute, and I quickly forgot about it. As I downloaded the kids’ holiday concerts last week, though, I also downloaded that saxophone snippet. When I clicked Play, to remind myself what the video even pertained to, I was entranced. There, without any planning or artifice, was a moment in time that typifies Our Current Everything. I was quizzing Allegra on her Spanish; Paco was practicing; we all were hanging out before dinnertime. One minute on the video camera, and it feels like a cross-section of our entire year.
2012 was a time of particular grace for this family. We did not lose anyone dear. We were preternaturally healthy. We had time and travel and community and dashes through the sprinklers. We started Morning Glories from seed. We ran races and learned guitar. We left the library with more than we could carry; we dipped strawberries in chocolate. We choreographed tricks on the trampoline. We played cards, attended conferences, shot fireworks, drank beer, carved pumpkins. We jumped in lakes, lost at tug-of-war, played Bananagrams, graded papers, listened to secrets. We braided hair. We built robots, took ink to paper, tobogganed at the golf course. We rode trains, planes, boats, and Ferris Wheels. We availed ourselves of free refills on large tubs of popcorn and taught others to feed themselves. We threw an arm around a waist and walked hip to hip.
We were providentially free of crisis and pain.
Quite blessedly, we were able to idle around the wooden spoons and mark the music,
living those flashes of Nothing Much that add up to the beauty of Everything That Is.