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Back When I Had Hair

Were the gold old days really good? Or do they just look that way when we watch old home movies.

The opening line to a Miranda Lambert song goes like this, “I know they say, ‘you can’t go home again.’”

But I think I just did.

Over the holidays, I finally tackled a project that has been on my do-it-when-I-have-time list since Beta videos were being sold at Tower Records. The project involved transferring about a million family videos onto DVDs. It wasn’t that hard to do but I had never found the time, at least not with all the episodes of Storage Wars and The Office I had to keep up with.

Now I must admit, I’ve never been a big fan of home movies. I think my aversion goes back to my twenties when my older brother would lock us into his basement and force us to watch hours of his home movies on an old Super 8 projector which is pre, pre-Beta. Eventually, whenever I saw him unpacking the projector, I would feign a bout of diarrhea and retreat to the bathroom for an hour or two.

So, when my daughter Caitlin was born and we were given our first video camera, I was reluctant to create a library of family movies that no one else really wanted to watch. My wife, on the other hand, wanted to capture every single childhood moment so that we could relive them as adults, even though we had already lived through them once, by spending hours watching them in the spare time we didn’t have. As a result, we have a few thousand hours of basketball games, gymnastics meets and the always painful early violin concerts.

The transfer process was relatively simple and as I burned the DVDs during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I simultaneously read novels, watched instant movies on my computer, and drank more eggnog than my cardiologist, or four out of any five doctors would recommend.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the transfer—I became overwhelmed with nostalgia.

I had never experienced this before. 

Oh, I enjoy reminiscing as much as the next guy. But for me, it’s not an emotional experience. It’s about looking back to find those embarrassing family stories in hopes of generating a laugh at the expense of others. I don’t get caught up in the emotions of the “good old days,” like some people do, because I don’t believe there really were good old days. They were just normal days from our past that look much better in the rear-view mirror.

And yet, when saw my children jumping into my arms with reckless abandon at the local swimming pool, I could’t take my eyes off of them. They were so cute. And so happy. And there was so much more hair on my head.

Immediately, I was transported to a time when it seemed that everything was about having fun. Smiles were plentiful and grumpiness had not yet crept into our demeanor.

So, as I sit here writing this column, looking over my shoulder at a stack DVDs full of magic moments, I wonder if we can go home again? Can we reclaim the spark of our youth? Can we recapture a bit of the essence that shines through all of those videos even though we know that they only represent a snapshot of our past and are not a complete picture of everything that was going on at that time? I wonder.

I wonder even more now than I did. Especially since I turned 51 last week. I realize that I have now turned the corner of life. Most likely, I will not live as long as I have already lived. Knowing that is a bit daunting. Thank goodness for the discounts I get with my AARP card.

I wonder if, in 20 years, I will look back on today with the same sense of nostalgia that I looked back on these videos? That means I am actually creating “the good old days” today. And if I don’t slow down and pay attention, I may miss the true richness of this moment and only get a glimpse of it through the distance of my memories—or my videos.

So, as you go into the new year, what are you going to do with the memories you are creating? Why not focus on them instead of the wishing for the good old days. By doing that, you can truly cherish the time, and the hair, you have today.

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