#58 An Edited Life

When I was settled in my beautiful new home in Pennsylvania, there was notice of a package for me from my mother. Could she have possibly sent me something for my new house? I still hoped back then. As usual she sent things the easiest and cheapest way possible for her, requiring taking time from work and at least a 20 mile drive for me to pick it up.

It was a metal box with old movie canisters. It wasn’t a gift.

She told me to have the family movies transferred to tape. It was baffling why she sent them 3,000 miles to me when she could have had it done at home or asked my brother or her husband to arrange it.

I had no way of playing the movies so entrusted them to the man at the photo shop to put them in nearly chronological order. My dad had dated some of the reels. But these weren’t all the movies of our family. They end about 1956. My mother had picked what she wanted.

When I got the tapes back I watched. Unfortunately my father was usually behind the camera so there’s little footage of him. I did as instructed and sent copies to my mother and brother.

Apparently my mother wore a fresh orchid every day, summer or winter, and we were always dressed impeccably and waving the two choices: hello or goodbye. There was no sound so waving and smiling was it. There are a few priceless frames with my father and his buddies at the base. But mostly it’s my mother, her orchids, new hats and our perfect clothes.

One shot has her posing and walking holding my hand, taking my early wobbly steps. She doesn’t notice that I’ve fallen and she’s dragging me on the grass. A friend later edited the dragging part out: my version of perfect.

There were perfect birthday parties, perfect dresses, perfect trips, perfect beach scenes, perfect parades, our perfect dog, perfect poses, like my brother dressed as Huckleberry Finn. There were no torn shirts, or skinned knees or even messy hair. Not even the occasional neighbor kid had a torn shirt or messy hair.

I understood in my core when I first viewed these movies that appearance was, forgive the inadequate word, important, to my mother. Though “Grasshopper’s” understanding can never be complete, “Grasshopper” begins to grasp, that appearance was everything. And was she still trying to prove to me our life was perfect?

I’ve passed the movies on discs to my nephew. Though he doesn’t know who half the people are, it’s a way for him to see the grandfather he never knew and how he moved. Perhaps he recognizes the same way he stands and where he got his smile. He can see himself in his own father as a boy. Maybe in about thirty years he’ll show them to his daughter. They’ll be holograms by then.


2 Comments on “#58 An Edited Life”

  1. Sylvia says:

    Perfect title. Perfect scan of the generations, with all the insight of a mature Grasshopper. And a hologram of an insight, it has become – through ALL of you hard work. Bravo! We have all risen to our feet in a standing ovation! Don’t wait another minute-take your bows!

  2. RIVERRHO1@aol.com says:

    I had a much nicer childhood…but I do remember some old movies…I’ll have to ask my brother’s widow, because you just reminded me that the old films might be somewhere! Then I’ll decide if I want to look! “Perfect” pictures were more the norm back then…I do have still photos that my Father took…and we were all carefully posed for the camera, with the “perfect” backdrop. Last week I took an old friend back to see my childhood home…he had never really been to Brooklyn, and as I stood in front of my old home I looked around and couldn’t understand what was wrong…then it struck me! The owners of the “house on the corner” had sold their huge garden lot, with the gorgeous rose garden and gazebo, and there instead was Brooklyn Gothic…My Father must have been spinning in his grave because it had taken him years to get the right angle, and placement of his subjects in front of that particular oasis. There’s a moral in there somewhere! Thanks again.. Much love, love

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