Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Muse: Old Home Movies

When I was a kid, my sisters and I would spend hours practicing and preparing for the skits and musical performances we would put on for our family... mostly mom since she had the video camera. My brothers would sit off to the side and act as our music coordinators and tech assistants but would refuse to be any part of our embarrassing performances. I don't know that I ever felt very comfortable being on camera, and I always sort of clammed up and said stupid things. Margo was usually the one in charge. She would tell us where to stand and what moves to do. She probably coordinated our costumes and organized all the details because she was the organizer. We were awesome, or at least we thought so. We even decided we were going to start our own band called Tropical Oil, as my sister reminded me this past weekend. I admit I was embarrassed by these videos when I was a teenager hoping that somehow they would get "accidentally" destroyed or spontaneously combust. They never did.

Just before Cameron and I had to leave on Sunday from being with my family, my brother decides we need to watch some old home movies so Cameron can see what a nerd I was. Silently, I hoped that mom had lost them during the move a couple of years ago, but she immediately jumped up and found them in the TV cabinet. To my dismay, I actually found them gut-wrenchingly funny. The one we were lucky enough to view was a skit or music video we made when my dad lived at Edward's Air Force Base in the middle of the California no man's land. It was brown and ugly, but we had a good time in our backyard riding the big wheels down the hill, walking on the cinderblock walls... and making skits and music videos. We were dancing to Janet Jackson... in our bathing suits... 80's hair. Awesome. I, of course, had on my white socks and tennis shoes to complete my ridiculous get up. There we were in all our skinny legged glory dancing around the dirt backyard doing pyramids and any other thing we could think of. Of course, my brother almost fell out of his chair he was laughing so hard. I actually found this video rather funny. We immortalized ourselves in that moment. As I watched it laughing, I could hardly believe that I had been that small once (and my legs so skinny), but at the same time I remember those days quite vividly.

I remember the house on the corner of the street kiddie corner from the park; the day Mallory came home from watching Top Gun for the first time and thinking that must be some weird movie with character names like Ice Man and Wolf Man; putting my little brother's underwear in the freezer where I think it stayed until my mom found it when they moved; the big wheels we raced down the hill; our friends the Suiters and the Webers; Mallory's friend Destiny; Meryn wearing that crazy blond wig all over the place; Margo getting makeup for her 12th birthday and screaming bloody murder when she got mascara in her eye; playing Mah Jong and eating bulgogi at the dinner table; Jared dressing up in my dad's old army clothes and Marcus following close behind; going back and forth between Edwards and Las Vegas stopping in Baker, home of the world's largest thermometer, and eating at Burger King. It was a long time ago, but not so long that the memories aren't still fresh.

Although watching that video was fine Sunday afternoon entertainment for the whole family, it was something more than that for me. For a few minutes, I saw my dad (Ron) as he used to be. He has a hereditary disease that has attacked his whole body, which has caused him to gradually deteriorate over the past decade. It has been difficult to watch as he has had to give up work, running, golf and playing the piano... all things he loved. He is not the same physical man he was when I was a kid. He's still the same man inside a body that doesn't want to keep going. But for those few minutes, he was there on that screen laughing, smiling, strong. That is how I want to remember him. That is the dad I remember. The one who played with us in the pool, forgot the tent poles when we went camping so we slept outside on top of the tent, took us out for ice cream and chased us screaming in the yard.

I hate being on film. I am rather uncomfortable with it. But I think video cameras are one of life's underestimated miracles. I am always teasing Cameron because he takes the video camera everywhere, but I am grateful for the moments he is capturing. They are like live memories at my fingertips. My dad will never be the man he was 20 years ago, but if I ever need a moment to remember, we have him on film.


Nicole Cave said...

I love old family videos. I had 4 sisters and one brother we would drag into our little videos. I have so many fun memories of doing this. I think it is the fact that back then everyone was so excited that there was even a way to record themselves. Those old camcorders were HUGE to say the least...I remember my Dad taking it everywhere!! Who knew we would have such compact ways to record nowadays!!

Lindsey said...

That last part was especially touching.

Rachel said...

great memories, nikki. and i agree with lindsey. :)

Lindsey said...

I love this! I never knew that about your dad! What is it that he has? It's fun to hear about all of your brothers and sisters. I don't think I've ever met any of them (except Jared, of course), but I feel like I knew them once upon a time.

Nicole Cave said...

Hi Nikki, Let me know what your e-mail is and I'll send you some info.

Margo said...

Nikki, I was so touched by your thoughts on the home videos. I gave a talk today in church about Family History and talked about the videos. As much as we think we would like to burn them, they really are funny. We found some more with more laugh out loud moments. I love you tons and we loved getting to see you guys.