Home Videos & The Beauty of the Ordinary


5 minutes of a bird hopping around a bird feeder, picking out a few pieces of feed and dropping others on the ground. 10 minutes of our church Christmas party, where young and old munch snacks, sip hot chocolate and listen to Christmas carols strummed & plucked by a patchwork orchestra of kids and adults. 10 minutes of a birthday party & 15 minutes of Christmas morning. 8 minutes of my family playing badminton in a field beside a church. 5 minutes of ocean slow pans, back and forth, back and forth.What do these scenes have in common? They’re all from home videos, a la the 1980s and 1990s. Seems like every time my extended family gathers, a Rubbermaid filled with VHS-C tapes gets pulled out and we settle in for a trip into the slightly grainy, sometimes shaky, always memory-stirring world of home videos.

We spent some time watching these sentimental clips this past Independence Day weekend, and it got me thinking. How will we remember these times when my kids are grown? Instagram photos? Facebook posts? The memories of my generation and the generations to come live largely in “the cloud,” and in the ether of social networks and that iPhone that’s always running out of space. What if that all was lost somehow? What would we do then?

Today, we curate our memories. Only the most beautiful vacation pics make the cut onto Instagram. We edit our vacation photos to make them utterly shareable and nearly perfect. When’s the last time somebody you know posted a 10-minute video of the ordinary moments? Sure, that’s not too engaging, but as I was watching those home movies, I was reminded that it’s the ordinary moments that make up the canon of our memories. Those that go un-shared, but just experienced. They fill in the gaps between the “shareable” moments, and that’s real life. It’s beautiful. In our “share everything” world, I can forget to just be.

I took my four-year-old to the indoor pool at the sleepy little East Tennessee retirement resort where my parents have a house. I’ve been going there since I was four myself, so the memories are rich and intense. The type on the signs are the same, the mini-golf course is the same, so much is the same. Just a few hours after taking him to that pool, we turned on a home video, and it was me as a skinny 7 year-old, swimming in that very same pool. That moment reminded me that sometimes, it feels like life goes by blindingly fast.

So though I’ll still find and treasure those “highlight” moments, I’m going to remind myself to savor the beauty of the ordinary moments. Here’s to the home videos. 

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