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Our Video Camera Was Worth Its Weight in Great Family Memories

From the time the kids were born, we traveled often to visit my family out East. Year after year, as I packed the car seats, diapers, formula, toys, Goldfish, meds, hats, sunscreen (for my pasty children), etc., my husband inevitably would turn to me and say, “What about the video camera?”

To understand this scenario, you have to picture the size of a video camera purchased in the late 1990s. Ours rested awkwardly on Todd’s shoulder and weighed about 10 pounds—he looked like he worked for NBC. I would roll my eyes and say, “Do we really need to take it with us?”

“Really, honey, it’s just one thing,” he’d respond, annoyed, tilting his head. I already had the hallway lined up with all of the “one things.” My list would have been shorter had I listed the things we weren’t packing.

So off we went with car seats, video camera, five suitcases, and three toddlers, me muttering under my breath about the stupid video camera. And, of course, the video camera had to be on the checklist as we got off the plane. “Don’t forget the video camera; I stored it overhead three seats back ‘cause it wouldn’t fit above our seats.” Sure, because I have nothing else to remember, no problem.

Reliving Childhood Memories

The years went by, and year after year, the video camera was lugged, VHS-C disks filled, and none watched. They piled up in a cabinet until about a month ago, when my husband announced it was time to get them put on DVDs for safekeeping. He arrived with the collection about two weeks ago, grinning ear to ear. I was not amused, still bitter from the early years.

One night he decided to pop in one of the DVDs. The whole family grabbed some dessert and descended upon the family room couch.

The first video showed our kids—ages 7, 5, and 2. Seeing their younger selves on the Slip ‘N Slide one hot July day in Cleveland, my 17-year-old senior, 15-year-old freshman, and 12-year-old almost-middle-schooler howled with laughter. In the video, the oldest, still scarred from being dethroned from the slide, kept hogging the camera, pushing his freckled face into view. (Clearly, this was practice for what would eventually become many selfies.)

“Wow, I would have punched [me] in the face—I was so obnoxious!” my son said from the couch. “Mom, I’m so sorry.” I laughed and assured him he will get his due someday. The laughter ensued, and I was overwhelmed by this bittersweet moment.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, my sister and her family arrived a week later.

They, too, wanted in on the fun. So we popped in the next DVD—all six of the cousins between ages 3 and 9, celebrating their grandfather’s 75th birthday. He is telling stories about his childhood; we are opening presents, and the kids are climbing on him.

Other scenes included the famous carousel rides in Hull, MA, water tunnels built all afternoon on Minot Beach as the tide swelled, treasure hunts they created for each other, playgrounds we “closed” at dusk, and the many, many meals shared together. And their voices—oh, my god—their sweet, high voices. They were almost unrecognizable.

Look at Them Now

I couldn’t help but glance at the two oldest sitting side by side on my couch, my son and his cousin—they’re starting college this fall. My heart is so full I feel like my chest might burst.

Everyone says the years fly by—I disagree, though those days do seem like a lifetime ago. I can barely remember the way their younger selves moved, the way they sounded, and the way something would make them crack up uncontrollably. How much my children have changed, and even more interesting, how much each of them hasn’t.

So, in the end, my husband was right, and I was … less right.

Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman is publisher of Your Teen Magazine.

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