Dh & I spent the afternoon at his brother's house, celebrating our oldest nephew (V.)'s 19th -- 19th!!! -- birthday. The years have passed so swiftly. Two things especially brought this home today. First, I gave V. the scrapbook I've been labouring over for the past two years, containing photos of his first year. And second, BIL recently had all their home videos transferred to DVD -- so we spent most of the afternoon transported back in time, watching our two nephews as sweet, adorable babies & toddlers, growing up all over again right before our eyes. It was hard to believe those cute little boys were now the tall (both 6-feet-plus), lanky young men sprawled on the couch across the living room from me.
There was a moment, as the tape started, when I realized that it was one of our younger nephew (A.)'s birthday parties. And my heart leaped into my throat, because I thought it might have been the year that I was pregnant. His 6th birthday & party fell two days before I headed to my ob-byn's for my 6-month checkup -- only to receive the news that my baby had no heartbeat. That day, as I snapped photos, A. begged me to let him take a photo, so I handed over the camera & he snapped the only photo I have of myself visibly pregnant.
The birthday party on the video was not that particular party -- I think it may have been the year before that one. I am not sure whether BIL videoed the 6th birthday party or not. As the boys got older, the video camera came out less and less often. I am not sure how I would feel if such a tape does exist -- whether I'd be hungry to see it (visible proof that I was, indeed, pregnant once), or just too painful to see how happy & blissfully unaware I was of the sharp turn my life was about to take?
I was reminded of the time we were at dh's aunt's house once for a cousin's birthday, and someone brought out the old film projector & showed old Super 8 home movies. There, briefly, was a 13-year-old dh, and even more poignantly, brief flashes of his mother, who passed away before I ever got to meet her. Even photos of my mother-in-law are scarce, so I found myself trying to absorb as much of her flickering image as I could, this woman who loomed so large in my husband's early life.
Coincidentally, my mom recently called me and opened the conversation with, "Well, we were at your wedding last night!" She & my dad somehow got watching the video from my wedding back in 1985. "And there was Grandma... and Grandpa... and Dido... and Uncle L.... and Great-Aunt A... and B..." she said. All people who aren't here anymore. Which is precisely why I've been avoiding watching the video for awhile now. I'm afraid of the floodgates of emotion that it might open up, seeing all those dear dead people again.
At the same time, though, I'm very, very glad to know that I have that tape -- that if I do want to see those people again, all I have to do is pop it in my VCR. When the people we love suddenly aren't with us anymore -- be they grandparents, parents or babies -- we cling to whatever things we have that show that they were indeed real and once with us, and this is what they meant to us.
As SIL said as she flipped through the pages of the scrapbook I had made for V., "These are the best presents of all."