January 16, 2013

Home Video Epiphany: Mother, Interrupted Jan 13-19

By Debra Carpenter

On Christmas Eve, when my husband, daughter and I celebrated Christmas at my mom’s house, we were sent home with triple the stuff we arrived with. The best items? Home videos from my childhood. My mom encouraged me to take some of them home, saying that I had my own family now and should keep them around to show my daughter (or for my husband to use as serious blackmail). I had to dig out the VHS player and sit in my daughter’s room to watch them, but the things I found, and realized, made it worth it.

            As I sat in my daughter’s tiny bedroom (on a Disney princess pillow, no less) and watched our family vacations, my spontaneous performances, recitals and talent shows, and times when my parents just filmed me while I slept or colored at the table, I couldn’t help but  tear up and wonder what happened to the little girl on screen. Did she have any inkling that she would end up to be so lucky, with a handsome husband who truly loved her and a beautiful daughter that thought she hung the moon? I had to pull it together because the sound quality on those old VHS tapes isn’t the greatest, and I had to be totally silent to hear anything. Plus, it would be so embarrassing if my husband saw me sobbing at a video of me in a poodle skirt, singing a doo-wop song at my 2nd grade talent show.

            Sitting in the living room of my childhood home, my mom is recording a conversation between my dad and I. I’m 4 years old and (evidently) obsessed with belly buttons. As I repeatedly lift up my shirt to show my belly button to the camera, my dad tries to get my attention. I say, “Not right now, Daddy. I’m on Candid Camera!” He says, “Debra, someday, maybe in 20 or 30 years, you will look back at this video. Why don’t you talk to me so you can have something nice to remember?” When I watched that part, chills ran down my spine. Here I was, 20 years later, doing exactly what he had predicted. And while I did wish that I had been a little more conversational and less “Girls Gone Wild,” the video still had an incredible impact.

            It only took me 2 days to get through all the videos. When I finished them, I put them into a box and placed in on the bookshelf. It all seemed very symbolic to me. My childhood was fun, it was warm and happy, and it molded me into the woman, wife, and mother that I am today. But I can’t put my focus on the past. After all, I’m busy making memories for my daughter and recording home videos for her to watch in 20 years. Maybe she will be sitting in her daughter’s room (on a Disney princess pillow, no less) when she puts in the movie, sees how much love and attention we gave her, and tries to cry quietly so her husband won’t hear. Maybe she will wisely put those videos on her bookshelf when she’s done so she can get back to what’s most important—the present. And maybe she will have a clearer understanding of how much her father and I love her, and know that we love her enough to record even the silliest and most mundane moments, because those are the moments that really make up your childhood.


Debra is a young housewife and mother transitioning from wild to mild and braving the waters of PTO meetings and play dates. This is harder than it sounds.
You can email her at interruptedmom@gmail.com or visit the website at www.motherinterrupted.com

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