We visited my Papa over the weekend, and I came back home with a pretty big gift. A window into my childhood. A video of a fishing trip I took with him when I was three. At dinner at his house, we started chatting about where his roots began, in the Goldboro area of Nova Scotia. It is fascinating to me, to hear about the childhood of my parents and grandparents. In an age where constant documentation didn’t happen, to hear them recount based on sparse memories is something to be savoured. Upon talking about his upbringing, he remembered that he had taken a couple of home videos in the early 90’s, when he and my grandmother travelled here to Nova Scotia. My family met up with them in the Goldboro area, where a couple of my Papa’s sisters still lived. My Papa, and his sister Carrie took me out on a fishing trip, and he captured it on video! Of course! I knew my Papa took lots of pictures and videos when he was able to visit with us, but I have never seen those videos! I was so excited and asked if I could borrow some of his VHS. He told me to go downstairs, and I grabbed the one labeled “Fishing Trip”.
The video itself was not too exciting. His videography style was to set up the camera on a tripod, and the the camera capture the scene. Yet, just to see my little self (around 3 years old) just being a toddler, my little brother as a baby, my big brother, my parents, was surprisingly emotional. It gives an insight to lived experiences that I can’t even remember, but no doubt shaped me.
Having little children, I find myself wondering often about my early childhood. What was I like? What were some funny things I did and said? How did my parents interact with me? What was I afraid of? Favorite foods? TV shows? What did my parents struggle with in parenting. What did they think and feel? I don’t often hear stories from my parents. Perhaps time has whittled the memories away. Maybe sharing like that doesn’t come naturally to them. I know that I’ve certainly forgotten some things from when Joseph was very small, so I can’t imagine what 28 years can do. But I long to know! Words cannot describe how valuable those videos are. I am so eager to go back and borrow more to see what else he managed to capture.
Keeping memories has always been important to me. It’s why I adore photography and video. Growing up, I loved flipping through pictures and seeing our family. I knew that I wanted to keep memories for my kids, not only for myself to look back on our time, but for them, when they are grown. When Joseph was born, I bought a journal that I could keep as he grows that documents his big milestones and other memorable moments. And we have done the same for Elizabeth. I plan to give them to them when they are grown, perhaps when they have kids of their own. I am so thankful we started that, because even now I read back to some of the earlier memories and my heart surges with happiness, remembering who Joseph was. Not to mention the yearly photo albums I have made.
Until I watched those videos, I didn’t really think of those things as legacy builders. At most, I thought it would be nice for my kids to know that we loved them so much in their childhood, that we revelled in their smallness, that we noticed when they grew and did new things. As they grow, it will be funny things they say, or stories that have made me proud. But when I wonder if perhaps my grandchildren might read those words, see those pictures, or watch those videos, I realize the impact can be so much greater that I first believed. I find myself so motivated to continue to do those things, but also to be a detective.
I also find myself wondering if I can uncover even more. Should I call my great-Aunt Rose and have her dictate to me how her parents traveled from Armenia to Montreal as orphans of the Armenian Genocide, where her father opened a restaurant? Should I ask my Papa about the overgrown gravesite in the video, where he visited Russell Hines’ tombstone. Should I find out if it’s possible who on my mom’s side came from Scotland? What if I could give those stories to my kids, and their kids, and so on? Clearly, the answer is a big YES! Family history is a legacy I would love to leave my children.