Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Family History

We got a video camera when our first son was born so that we could capture our family's special moments on video. We've had five iterations of video cameras since then plus a couple of phones that actually produce somewhat decent video.

We currently have about three dozen DVD discs of family movies that include many years of our Christmas celebrations. One Christmas morning is missing because I accidentally deleted critical files on a then-new camcorder. But for the most part we can watch our family age as we look at videos of Christmas over the years, allowing us to recall events from a lengthening chain of Christmases.

Some elements are perpetually the same. We do our annual Christmas Eve dinner on the floor. It started out being somewhat reminiscent of the type of dining that occurred in Israel around the time of the first Christmas. But over the years we have gradually dropped the less favored and less convenient items for items with broader appeal. We seriously parted from Jewish tradition the year our Christmas Eve feast included slices of ham.

Then there's the Christmas morning gift opening event. What started out as a desire of young parents has firmed into an iron clad tradition. Following breakfast the kids first get their Christmas stockings and check out the stocking stuffers. Then we start handing out gifts from under the tree, trying to time the opening in such a way that I can capture the moment of delight (or disappointment) with each gift.

A few years ago we headed into the Christmas holidays with no snow on the ground. But then it snowed during the night so that we awakened to an incredibly beautiful snowy day with clear skies. After opening gifts we went to the nearby park where we slid down the slopes on toboggans and tubes, making our mark in the fresh snow. I caught elements of this on video. We returned to the house for hot chocolate, movies, games, and playing with gifts. It seemed like the perfect traditional Christmas.

My appearances in our family movies are rare and rare, since I am usually running the camera. However, my commentary can often be heard.A couple of evenings ago my daughter was watching some of our Christmas videos. It was fun to see the kids when they were much younger. But it was a bit shocking to see myself in those videos. It provided for a comparison with the present, allowing me to realize how much I have aged.

Being a regular journal writer, I have also captured our annual Christmas celebrations in writing too. There was the year that our two oldest were toddlers and were both quite ill. My wife took our oldest to the emergency room late on Christmas night, only to be told that his very high fever was the result of a virus and that the only option was to let the virus work its course.

I was off work between Christmas and New Year that season, but my wife wasn't. I spent the holidays mostly caring for my sick little boys, who had little desire to do much other than to watch videos and be held. Fortunately, they both rebounded about the time I had to return to work.

My brothers and I used to bring our families to my parents' home on Christmas Eve, where we would eat, share gifts, and have the grandchildren perform a talent show and the nativity story. That eventually became too difficult to pull off as families aged and started spreading out.

There was the Christmas when it snowed, and snowed, and snowed. I spent much of the day doing snow removal at our place, for various neighbors, and at the church. Then there was last year, when we celebrated together for what we figured would be our last time as a family for a while, anticipating boys leaving on missions.

I need to figure out which services I'm going to use to move our family movies and my journals out to the cloud. Although I have backup copies of these files (even stored off site), they are not as accessible or as secure as they could be on the cloud. Besides, all electronic data is subject to obsolescence. I have already undertaken major projects to upgrade my journals and videos to current formats. But even those are aging. When will DVDs be little more than anachronisms of a bygone era?

We will soon be taking video and still shots of our annual family Christmas celebration once again. I will then work to preserve these videos for future use. Hopefully my kids will always have the opportunity of looking back on events from their formative years to help remind themselves of the ties that bind us together even stronger than the bonds of life itself.

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