Hallmark moments that go on too long

Home video Christmas

Christmas home movies are always fun to watch … as long as they eventually come to an end.

A few years ago, I purchased an analog-to-digital converter so I could import all of my family’s VHS home movies into the computer.

Capturing the video required playing it in real time, so I watched as milestones from my childhood unspooled before my eyes. It was like reliving the long-ago moments of a cobwebbed memory … except with a timestamp on the screen and tracking that needed adjusting.

Unfortunately, I fell asleep and drooled on the keyboard, which shorted out the light on the “caps lock” key. (So now when I’m typing, I have to express my anger in italics.)

The thing was, I’d forgotten how boring home movies were in the 1990s. (Note: I wasn’t being angry there; I was just placing emphasis.)

It was a different era back then. The economy was strong, the Cold War had officially ended, and new episodes of Saved By The Bell were still being made.

But when it came to cutting-edge technology, we weren’t quite there — as evidenced by  the lack of Internet and the elephantine cell phone Zack Morris carried.

Speaking of cell phones, they’re the camcorder of choice nowadays. They’re small and portable, and they encourage us to film from various angles.

But in the ’90s, camcorders were large and bulky, and they looked more like a shoulder-mounted cannon than a consumer electronic. So instead of lugging the things around, we’d set them on a tripod, press “record,” and walk away.

Hence the boringness. Most of my home videos are shot from a single vantage point, and they play out for at least an hour. The whole time, I’m begging for somebody to pick up the camcorder and change the perspective. (Unfortunately, my counterpart from 20 years ago was more concerned with playing Nintendo than manning the camera.)

In one example of immoderate reminiscence, the tape labeled “Christmas Eve 1993” is 40 minutes of my cousins and I tearing open presents — all shot from a single, never-ending angle.

That’s it. Nothing else happens. It’s not a Hallmark moment — it’s a Hallmark epoch. And not an interesting one, at that.

What was the point of preserving this spellbinding footage? As a historical study, it’s not that interesting. What doe-eyed archivist is going to care that I got a pair of socks in the waning years of the 20th century?

Besides, all that crap Santa Claus brought has since been hauled to Goodwill and the local landfill. (Except for the socks, which not surprisingly rotted. They didn’t stand a chance.)

These days, we’re conditioned to film in abbreviated takes, to accommodate social media such as YouTube, Vine, and Vimeo. We’ve learned to preserve our memories in seven-second snippets.

But we didn’t do that with VHS. The incentive back then was always to fill the tape — as if any blank space was an unforgivable wastage tantamount to tossing out food during the Great Depression.

“I need to fill the tape.”

“Do something interesting, will you? There’s only 5 minutes of tape left.”

“No, don’t turn it off! Let it keep going till it runs out of tape.”

The result is hours of footage of people sitting around, stealing glimpses at the camera.

“Did it shut itself off, yet?”

“Did it run out of tape?”

“What should we be saying?”

“Should somebody juggle oranges, or something?”

“Allen, see how much tape it’s got left.”

If my old VHS movies offer a window to the past, then I’d rather draw the blinds.

Actually, I’m just kidding. I’m glad I have all those VHS tapes — especially during the holidays, when I can watch them together with family. Sure, we fast-forward through some of the drawn-out, stationary shots — but at least the footage exists.

What I really regret are the times when we didn’t take video or pictures. Those moments live only in my memory, and they’re susceptible to time (especially if I drink a lot of eggnog during the holidays).

I treasure all of the photos and video I have. Although not all moments are worth reliving, most are worth preserving — especially if you intend to share them later with loved ones.

And that’s the thing. When it comes to family and friends and all the joyous moments they bring, you can never make too many memories.

16 comments on “Hallmark moments that go on too long

  1. Allen, what you’re saying here is all so true, right on down to those long stretches where our kids would ask mom, “Mom, why was dad filming the trees for so long? Not even the leaves were moving!”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Those static views sometimes have their uses though. My parents set up their camera one tme and caught me in the act of stealing cream (real cream, not the stuff they call cream nowadays) out of the “cow creamer” on my grandmother’s kitchen table when I was about 4. Luckily they’ve never converted their old home movies to a newer format so it’s a secret that has faded away over time. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • When it comes to the destruction of incriminating evidence, there’s nothing like gradual obsolescence. Unless a determined archivist somehow digitizes the film and uploads it to YouTube, it sounds like you’re in the clear. 🙂

      That’s quite a crime, though — stealing cream. Perhaps conspiracy theorists can analyze the film to determine if you acted alone — or, perhaps, if there were actually *two* cream thieves … one behind the grassy knoll.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re lucky to have the movies in a format you can watch now…lack of movement or no. A window into your childhood is a welcome thing. I agree with you wholeheartedly, you can never have enough memories. And to have them where you can actually see them and touch them and share them is a blessing indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I definitely recommend digitizing home movies, if you can. The old formats will continue to deteriorate each year, and the convenience is amazing. Instead of having to pop tapes in and out of the VCR, now I just double-click on a video file. It’s great for family parties, because you can scroll through the videos at your leisure instead of having to thumb through stacks of tapes or DVDs.

      My home movies were all on VHS, VHS-C and Hi-8, so I was able to digitize them all myself. Anything older, like film, and I probably would have had to have a professional do it. Luckily, hard drive space is so much less expensive than it was 10 years ago, so even though movie files take up a lot of room, it’s easier now to buy the capacity.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so cool! Memories recorded are indeed priceless! But we have a lot of BORING (not angry, just emphatic!) stuff on ours too!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I forgot! Thanks for the follow! And I love your name!

    Liked by 1 person

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