the gift of film

i sit cross-legged on the floor infront of the tv. like a kid, mouth agape head tilted back, the screen reflecting in my eyes. it flickers and jumps like old school projectors of my youth. except these are images from 1942… toys in the side yard, baby walks, family, home in massachusetts, home in maine.

these are people i never had the chance to meet. they die young on your side of the family, a tradition that will be carried on it seems. the still photographs of my life come alive on the dvd now, they walk and laugh and wave at the camera. i am seeing them in real life for the first time. and it’s as if they see me.

my mom as a baby. her mother, her father. those i never knew.  they gather at the beach. hike the maine woods with wicker baskets strapped to their backs. always at the cottage with picnics on blankets in suits and ties. hannaford cove.  cape elizabeth.  the lighthouse in the distance. my mom’s pageboy haircut and youthful grin surrounded by family who all resemble me in some way.

someone behind the camera is just like me, scanning the sea, the waves crashing on the rocks.  the silhouettes at the edge of the coast, the sun flickering and dancing on the water. someone holding the camera is just like me.

it’s almost too much for me, this cross-legged kid. i’m laughing and crying at the same time, wiping my eyes so as not to miss a single minute of it.

this, family.
this, happiness at the coast.
grasses in the wind.

this gift i am bringing to you, when i hop my plane to the east coast tomorrow before the sun rises. a week at home with family absorbed and sorting out the details, living zen like in the moment of dementia. this real life from long ago is where you live now. it’s black and white and will be shared between us. for a moment i hope we will sit together in the same head space, connected through family.

this gift i am bringing to you, but it is also for me. the final reel, the last two minutes show you grown into a mother much like myself. two years before my birth you are all pony tails and plaid bell bottoms. i see you and can’t help but see myself. the woman surrounded by children. holding hands ring around the rosie duck duck goose. you and i are more alike that i ever could have imagined. and it wasn’t until we reached this place that i could really see it.

and that is a gift to me.