Monday, November 9, 2015

Saving Amy

Suddenly I’m surrounded by the past. Old 8mm movies. Childhood pictures. Audio tapes of my days in college radio and my brother’s first band. My mother was a saver, and now that she is downsizing, she’s giving her children all their mementos.

The quality of these remnants isn’t always the best. You have to strain your eyes or your ears to discern detail, and the gist is really all that comes through.

The problem with much of the media is that it’s old technology. My husband had to scavenge two 8mm projectors to get one that works semi-reliably. Some of the pictures have adhered permanently to their album pages. And the audio tapes are either reel-to-reel, for which machines are a rarity, or cassettes, for which I still have machines, but the cassettes themselves have their own playback issues.

At one point, years ago, my father edited and transferred his trove of home movies from film to VHS tape. Then he must have thrown out the original film, because we haven’t been able to find it. As for the VHS, well, when I was able to find a player, the tape was in such bad shape that all I saw was snow.  One VHS tape had a promising title, about a holiday family dinner back before I was born, but that had been recorded over with some old television show. So much for preserving memories in media.

At first I bemoaned the loss of the sights and sounds of family and the way we were. Then, when this last batch of memorabilia surfaced, and I could hear my old newscasts, and my brother’s saxophone solos, I wasn’t so sure they were worth preserving. Things sounded so much better in my mind. I remember the circumstances around each recording, and the memories are kinder and clearer than these saved snippets.

I really don’t need to be reminded about the imperfections. I’d rather focus on the experiences I had and how they motivated me to continue discovering new things. Passions for radio and photography have faded, but other interests took their place. And then they faded as newer interests came along.

Over the years, I tried my hand at learning Hebrew and French. I entered 10k races and a half marathon. I rode bicycles. I hiked. I went to concerts and plays. I lived in the city and then the suburbs. I traveled overseas. I gardened. I took up yoga and mindful meditation.

There’s only so much time in the day, so it makes sense that interests would wax and wane. The lesson I’ve learned is to just keep learning, to find whatever that next thing may be.

And there’s only so much space in my house, so I really don’t want to save all the ephemera of my life. There’s much more room in my imagination to store memories of people and places and interests gone by – with lots of room left over for what’s ahead.

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