Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I'm converting ... my videos to DVDs

I did it. I did the DVD thing, the Third-Thirds-DVD-thing: I sat down with the VHS videotapes and now they’re being converted into DVDs.

It was the carpet that pushed me over the edge. Of course, that’s what it’s been doing with everything. The pile of videotapes is in a crate that sits on the carpet. If the carpet has to go, I have to face the videotapes.

Videotapes come in several sizes. Big cassettes which have been copied from little cassettes. Uncopied little cassettes and even tinier where-did-those-come-from-what-are-they cassettes. While the little cassettes have no labels, they’re still first generation, which is a good thing. To watch them, you have to put them in the adapter thing. First one in got munched. Now I know how to use the adapter.
So I had to sit and watch. Unfortunately, last week I finally donated the pile of dust-covered remotes for things we didn’t own anymore. Hmm, one of them must have been the remote for the VCR….
I have a friend who said, when her daughters were grown, that she still saw herself as a mother of young girls. I know how she felt. Going through those videos, I remembered that bond and I craved it. Craved it. I was like a long-sober addict who still feels the biological pull years later. When that little girl in the video spied me in bed, she giggled and ran under the covers to cuddle with me. When she put on dress-up clothes and pranced around like an actress possessed, I marveled at the world she inhabited. Even later on, when we were filming her science experiments and had to do a dozen takes because things weren’t working and she was in such despair but then it FINALLY WORKED, I knew our family was a team.
The most dramatic thing about those videotapes? How much laughter they record. You can’t watch hours and hours of people laughing and enjoying each other’s company without being affected. It’s like that guy who cured his disease watching funny movies. I got in the car, drove to Tim’s workplace, and kissed him.

You don’t take videos of making beds, vacuuming, cooking dinner. You don’t take videos of watching TV, mowing the lawn, going shopping. No videos of laundry, being bored, writing to-do lists. But to see all of us laughing and enjoying, telling stories and laughing, ice-skating, swimming, riding waves and laughing. The camera operator always laughed at what he or she was filming; you could hear it. All that laughing! The laughing was contagious.

Studies have shown that Facebook makes people depressed. They look at all those fun, happy things other people are doing and get bummed out. But the videos were of US! We were looking at ourselves having a terrific time. Yes, some of those videos were taken during times of unemployment, stress, fatigue. But despite that, we were still laughing – there’s evidence!

Maybe watching videos for so many hours is like brain-washing. There I am, kind of negative and harassed about carpeting, and I spend six hours watching laughing videos. You can’t come away unchanged. I am resolved: I will add more laughter to my days and appreciate all the people who are part of that laughter.

At the same time, it’s bittersweet. Time has passed. I discovered the oral history tapes I’d made of my mother in 1997. She was thrilled to be filmed, needed no prompting to tell me of her grandparents, her parents’ immigration, her life growing up in Brooklyn. This is the woman who now can’t remember the beginning of a sentence by the time she gets to the end. It made me want to fly to New York and watch these videos with her.

The videos just keep on giving. Pulling out the camera back then meant it was a special occasion and made it even more special. (It was before iPhones, before oppression-by-camera.) Watching the tapes this week has been such pleasure, such happiness. Taking them into Karl at Action Video was such a treat, too; all that personal attention! Now, when the DVDs are ready, I get to share them, to spread all that laughter around to my extended family. I can hardly wait. I bet we laugh.


  1. Barbara, thank you for this. Now I know I am spreading cheer on my Fb site when I put depressing stories up! I feel much better.

    And yeah, good point about life and all that. Sure, that's good too.

  2. Thank you for adding more laughter to my day!

  3. I pitched all of mine as they degredated and I no longer had a player. I'm not that sentimental over looking at old photos and films of my life. I'm big on living with the minimum and not holding on to lots of 'stuff' like tapes/DVDs. I gave away many to others who wanted them. I keep key still photos only.

  4. When we were in Hong Kong recently we visited a street market in one of the poorer neighborhoods. There we found a booth selling used remote controls! I will e-mail you some photos.

    1. Here is a link to my incomplete blog post about HK. I have posted photos of the street market.


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