Reel Life

November swept by quickly, and quietly, this year: I was surprised to discover that we’d arrived at December. The month was dry, without notable storms, and then it was Thanksgiving and Black Friday Christmas advertisements and gone. Of course, it did leave another birthday in the bin, and those seem to go past quickly too. Where did all that sand go, that was in the top of the hour glass?

Last week I left The Family Movies with a lab for conversion onto DVDs, and the short stack of yellow boxes reminded me that my parents weren’t prolific picture takers. A quick scan of the dates on the processing envelopes made it plain that their cinematic efforts peaked around vacations and child births. (The Great Snowstorm of ‘68 rated an entire 50-foot reel. Three minutes of local history, and three weeks before we would see the grass again.)

Each generation adjusts to its own peculiar technologies and conveniences, but the Kodak Moments my folks were encouraged to capture were harder to come by than those saved today…or so it appears from a 21st Century point of view. Perhaps it’s merely the perceived difference, the ease of use of a wind-up regular-8 camera (where the reel had to be flipped over to complete the film) compared to those captured by modern digicams…or phones. Glacial was the Speed of the Times. Our expectations have evolved from a week to a day to an hour to instantaneous.

I can’t say old movies are more cherished simply because they’re old or because the photographer/parents had to work with slow processes for every three minutes of action. The projector came out of the closet rarely, it also being a slow-moving piece of equipment and prone to disasters. (At this moment I can still recall the smell of the beaded screen that accompanied the projector and the squawk it made when unfolding.) But they were a treat, and in color at a time when the television wasn’t. Whether it was seeing your first dog again, or the house you grew up in, or just everyone younger, they had an impact, a relevance, far beyond anything the networks could ever offer.

The point I’m rambling towards is, is how unique family histories are, played out in grainy movies and still photos, and how lucky we are to have them.

With the year drawing down it’s natural for memories to brighten and overlap, spliced together like fragile films in little colored boxes. It’s time to dim the lights, sit back, and enjoy our lives.

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