Thursday, July 14, 2005

Video From Before The Fall 

Mommy and the baby are napping, the in-laws are out at Home Depot, and Willow and I are all tuckered out from an afternoon of kite flying. We can't find Willow's kidvids, but underneath my wife's high school play recordings I am drawn to a single, older tape labeled "Joshua and Darcie's Wedding." This will be fun, I think: the two of us sharing a secret peek into the history that brought her here.

Bad call. Once we resolve -- however temporarily -- the idea that there was a universe before her birth, one in which Mommy and Daddy met each other, and in which a bunch of people who now live only in my stories were real enough to be in our home movies, Willow the empath begins to get distraught, distracted by her growing sense of mortality. Let's go to the videotape:

You weren't there, honey. Yes, that's Grandpa Jerry; he died. We saw Dan at the festival last year, remember? You don't remember Grandma Florence? That's our friend PJ; you'd like him, I bet. I know you wanted to meet Grandma Martha, honey. I wanted you to meet her, too, but she died the week before you were born.

How confusing for the three-year-old mind to see Martha, still vibrant in red, leading a gaunt but stable Jerry around an otherwise unpopulated dance floor. How hard for us both to watch Grandpa Hy, beaming as he watches the photographer, his arm protectively around Florence; Uncle Bob eating quietly with a pre-Alzheimers Aunt Ruth; Mom and Dad, young, vibrant, grinning, proud together, chatting back to back with her sister and his brother-in-law, who we haven't seen in years.

So many of the people she points to are no longer with us, by fate or by choice. Some are sick. Many are dead. Others are alienated. No one is as whole as they look from the balcony, the wide shot shaky in the hands of a boy now college-bound.

No wonder she wants to know where she is during the video, I think. The only people she recognizes are the people who she belongs with now: our parents and remaining grandparents, our siblings, our selves. Those ghosts without wrinkles, sans gray; those thin, beautiful, unravaged people in their prime.

It is peripherally telling, at least, that Willow recognizes no others. Our small crowd contains family and friends, but our intimate friendships, too, have fared worse, subjectively speaking -- we see a few of those present once a year, most never.

Some have moved on, leaving no forwarding address; they live underground lives where even google can't find them. Last we heard of our Ketubah witnesses, one was still struggling to make a living as a musician, and the other was still strugging to be taken seriously as a musician.

Later, while the kids and in-laws asleep, Darcie and I watch the rest of the raw footage. Not sure what she was thinking, but all I saw was my family tree, glowing with the wholeness that only a wedding can bring, before the dry rot of age and emnity took root.

We look so young, all of us; So alive, so loved, and loving, nine years ago, in our rented hall and homemade clothes. Before my grandparents generation started dying, and tension and adulthood divided my family a hundred ways. Before we had our own children, rebuilding within our walls the eternal empires now crumbled outside them. Back when we could laugh at our younger selves, instead of crying for them.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:26 AM |

I sat and read your blog, dear Josh, and I, too, cried. So much loss and hurt and sadness.
I pray that in the days ahead there will be joy and good times, healing and peace in our family.
Yesterday was the third anniversary of Grandma's death, and I lit a candle for her. And last night I dreamt about both Grandpa and Uncle Milty.
May we always keep these dear ones in our hearts, and share their stories with the generations to come.
May we never forget how blessed we are to have these two beautiful new additions to our family, dear Willow and Cassia.
And may we each do everything we can to foster lovingkindness and compassion to each other, especially at this difficult time in the life of our family.
I love you, Josh,
What a wonderfully-written entry. Man, you sure know how to do this writing thing. ...and that footnote from your mom. I don't know what to say, really. Good one? Feh.
I have to say that I'm rather new in blogdom. Just started a blog of my own a few weeks ago, and have become enthralled in the process of finding GOOD blogs out there in cyberspace. Yours is one of them. As a fledgling writer, I read your posts and relish the language and thought that went into them--more than the flippant cursings and ramblings I find on most sites.

And, as a new mother, having just moved to a new city in Northern, VT that feeling of scatteredness resonates with me. It's amazing how family expands and shrinks the social margins of our lives!
Only 3 years from our wedding and I am feeling the same way about the people in our life. My one and only regret from our wedding day is that we did not make a video. Our [future] child(ren) will have to make due with photos and our memories.

Happy Birthday Willow. Congratulations Josh and Darcie.
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