The images that we were looking at had been seen by us dozens of times before. Maybe hundreds. It would be hard to calculate, since once upon a time we lived in a Super 8 world. There were Saturdays when we didn't leave the basement. We plugged in the projector and watched reel after reel of Kodachrome stock as it spooled past the lamp. Not content to merely watch the movies as they had been shot, we slowed them down. We sped them up. We watched them backwards and forwards until sometimes they broke. Initially lacking the technology of splicing, that meant that those memories would have to live on as just that. We would not have the handy guide of that great big box of home movies to remind of us of the olden days.
When I sat down on the couch with my younger brother last weekend, I knew what was in store for us. I had previewed all nine hours of footage that had only recently been transferred to digital disc. As I watched them by myself, I was surprised at exactly how much I remembered: colors, faces, places, cars, pets. But I was haunted by the lack of sound. These were silent movies, and as I sat there on my first viewing, I struggled with that vacuum. What did Uncle Marvin sound like? There were miles of marching band footage without any music. My brain raced to try and access the files that would sync up. Eventually I surrendered and put on a CD for background ambiance. This was my suggestion as I returned, some weeks later, with my younger brother for another trip down memory lane. The Christmases had that same warm glow. The family reunions were all dazzling in their similarity. The trips we took to Santa Fe and the desert southwest blurred into one cohesive vacation. We loved our ruts. We got favorite things and stuck with them.
Maybe that's why it all felt so familiar. Maybe that's why it felt like a familiar piece of music that you find yourself humming before you even notice that you're doing it. This was the story of our lives together. The moment that stuck out for me was that of my mother climbing out of the passenger side of our station wagon. My older brother and I rushed up to see what bundle she might be carrying. It was our little brother. There is a permanent record of the first time we met. Now, nearly fifty years later, we were watching it all unfold once again. As if it were new.
All the food. All the haircuts. All the Christmas trees. All of our lives laid out in front of us to ponder. To peruse. To look at once again. In living color.