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What I Learned This Week – 1/20/2013

This week I learned that I can still write fiction.

I pulled out an old short story and have been working on it. I hope to debut it on my blog in the coming weeks.

I declared the story “finished” probably 18 years ago. But something kept nagging me about it–a scene here or there that I knew needed a rewrite, facts that were just a little bit off.

I thought this story just kept nagging me because I consider it the “best” story I have written (more for its length than anything else). But, in retyping and revising it, I realized that it speaks to a deeper part of me than I ever realized before. That this story was going to give me an opportunity that life will never give me.

Although I thought it was finished, it has a few more story lines that need to play out;)

Dead Dad Movie (Non-Feature Film Edition)

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(Click here to see my previous post about Dead Dad feature films.)

[This the only footage I have of my dad. My dad died before I was born. My mom said that her dad (my grandpa) died in December 1973. She was using up the film on his movie camera, so this was probably taken in 1974.]

Family movies. About once a year, when I was young, my mom would force my Gramma to get out the films (Super 8?) and the projector and we would watch them. Usually this was a few months after it was first discussed, because it seemed like my Gramma always needed to buy a new light bulb for the projector. There were about 15 reels of film. My mom always wanted to watch the one with my dad on it first. No one could ever remember which reel it was on.

The family movies contained relatives I had never met and would never meet. Relatives that my mom and Gramma had (it seemed) endless stories about. There were movies of my Gramma’s house before the porch was built and before it was screened in. There were movies of my mom and Gramma helping to build my uncle’s house. An uncle I did actually get to meet before he died, but he moved out of that house before I ever saw it.

In the movies, there were many scenes of dogs pooping (Ginger, who was our dog when I was young, and Suzy, my Gramma’s dog that died shortly after I was born, and my Great Grandpa’s future dog, Rusty). There was a flood rushing through my Gramma’s front yard. There were boring movies of driving out West to Yellowstone, taken from car windows. There was a more endlessly boring boat trip to Lower Tahquamenon Falls, which sort of blends in to another at Pictured Rocks. These trip movies also featured everyone walking from the car to the restroom and back again.

I was always disappointed that I was not represented in those movies. Here were my mom and Gramma and uncle, who I actually knew, fraternizing with all these strangers. They were living lives I would never know anything of, except for their stories and these movies. My lack of representation bothered me so much so that in college, studying Communications-Radio & TV Broadcasting, I checked the video camera out one weekend and shot my own home movies. One problem, my movies had sound. My Gramma’s did not. When I watch my home movies now, I watch them on mute. I prattle on about this and that. What I really want to see are my old clothes and furniture and posters on my walls. And I love on the video when my asbestos friend and I go to the gas station (which in a year would be the site of my first real job) and gas is $1.24. She says “$1.24! I should be able to put gold in my car for $1.24!”

In the late 1980’s my mom decided to have the films transferred to VHS. We numbered what order to transfer them in, placing the film with my dad first. At the time, Sears was running a promotion where they gave you a free extra VHS copy to send to America’s Funniest Home Videos (The new hit show:P). It even came in a cardboard box with the show’s address on it, all ready to mail. (Of course, our only funny scene, of a bear trying to get into the sunroof of a Volkswagen Beetle, had long ago been lost to the unfortunate break and scotch tape repair.) So, we kept one tape and my Gramma kept the other. My mom and I could watch it whenever we wanted. We would watch the beginning, with family and dogs. We stopped it when the Mackinac Bridge came into view, always skipping the boat trips.

In the 2000’s, my work had a discount offer to get film/slides/VHS converted to DVD. I decided I should torture the old footage and have it converted one last time. But, what to convert? The film had continued to deteriorate in my Gramma’s hot apartment. So then, which VHS? The one that had been kept in our hot trailer or my Gramma’s hot apartment? (Boy, analog is sure fragile.) I believe I chose my Gramma’s VHS tape, because it had been viewed very few times, as she had given us her VCR, which is what we watched our copy of the tape on.

Yes, the quality is iffy. And all the ritual is gone out of it. No setting the date, buying the light bulb. No guessing what was on each reel, no popcorn. No narration by those who had lived it. But it still feels like preserving history. My history. And now my son can watch them too. He can see the few fleeting seconds that are captured of my dad.

Then, he will know him as well as I do.

Looking to convert your own memories? I recommend The Archival Company. Who do I NOT recommend? Walmart.

Like Father, Like Son

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I don’t write much about parenting on my blog. Mostly because my blog is my escape from parenting. Also, I only have one 20-month old son, so what the hell do I know about parenting? I was an only child. I never babysat as a kid. There was never anyone younger than me in my family to take care of. So, my husband and I spend a lot of time winging it.

Today I wanted to talk about how my son is going to take right after his Daddy. My husband loves to disassemble things. He always has. (Ask any of his family members. They will tell you about the television he took apart and didn’t put back together again.) When our TV started smoking a few months ago, my husband had that thing unscrewed before it had even cooled off.

Mostly, I find this be an endearing quality. It is incredibly handy too. When our pipes to our shower burst several winters ago, he moved the tub surround (all one piece, mind you), replaced the pipes and the faucet, insulated them so that they would stop freezing every winter, put the tub surround back, and built a faux wall where before there had been an ill-fitting shelf unit. My passenger-side window in my car got stuck in the down position a week ago. While I didn’t want to put the money into getting the new part to fix it, he took the car door apart and put the window in the up position for me (especially nice since that is our only vehicle with working air conditioning).

There are a million examples like that. He is very handy. For all the things he actually fixes, there are only a handful of things, such as a toy remote control helicopter, mantel clock, or gun, that sit around endlessly, waiting to be reassembled. And usually there is a good reason they are not yet back together. Usually a piece has gone missing. Usually, that piece is a spring.

I can already see these traits of extreme curiosity in my 20 month old son, M. He has a Thomas & Friends book that plays sounds and songs, complete with a steering wheel that turns. Yet, often, I find him with it flipped over, trying to figure out how to get into the battery compartment. Lucky for both of us, it requires a screwdriver. So curious to find out what makes it work.

My child. Highly fascinated by the VCR. “What is this analog?”

The other day, M was laying flat on the living room floor, with both hands in the VCR door, checking it out. Just so you know, it was upstairs and we only recently brought it down. So it is new to M. And apparently, there is great mystery with what goes on inside of it.

The most obvious example of M being like his Daddy happens every time I vacuum the house. I have a Shark Navigator. I believe it is a pretty early incarnation. The one featured in infomercials about two years ago. I hope the company has fixed the design issues that my vacuum has. (One of these is that the sweeper exhaust, that goes through the hepa filter, blows directly in front of it. This caused me endless frustration chasing dog hair around the house I could not catch. So I had to rig it so that it vented to the side instead.) The dust cup is deceptively small. I have two dogs. Sweeping only the downstairs once a week, I have to empty the dust cup five times. And that is when M swoops in.

My Shark Navigator

When you remove the dust cup on my Shark Navigator, two foam filters are exposed. As soon as I walk to the wastebasket with the dust cup, a certain adorable toddler runs over and takes out the foam filters. Then he has dirty little hands and he leaves dirty little hand prints all over the house I am attempting to bring some semblance of clean to. Oy.

I have many more years of disassembling ahead of me. After all, my husband already has a mini bike and a box of random old engines in the garage for M to discover someday. It is a good thing we had a boy so that they can man-boy bond in the garage for years to come. But that will have to wait. For now, the garage is not child-proofed.

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