Thursday, August 25, 2016

Understanding the Greeks

Last week I sat and watched hours of old home movies, of me and my husband years ago, of the children when they were little. Oh -- they were so little and so very cute! Because of those hours of watching, finally I think I understand the Greeks and their theater.
I taught high school English for many years. I taught many tragic plays -- everything from Oedipus to Shakespeare. I wanted to understand the Greek concept of tragedy, of how a story plot they already know, with already-familiar characters, could make them weep and depart in silence from the amphitheater. What was this catharsis that they supposedly experienced, this emotional cleansing and transformation? How could watching an old story do that?
And then I watched those home movies, which I hadn't seen in decades. So the images were nearly new. I hadn't seen those faces -- oh, those precious faces! -- in so many years. They are like lost children to me. Where did they go? How did I lose them? Of course, it's ridiculous; they weren't supposed to stay small. They grew up into adults just as they were meant to do. But I miss them so. It makes me cry. I would give anything to hold them again when they would fit into my arms. Now my boys wrap me in big hugs -- I am in their arms instead of the other way around.
I know how the home movies end. It's my life and theirs. I know the characters as well as any humans on the planet. The intensity of feeling resulting from watching them had nothing to do with suspense or plot development or character development. It had everything to do with knowing ahead of time the trials and sufferings we would face, and looking at our unknowing, hopeful young faces as we try valiantly to soldier on through the very full years. The emotion comes from watching people you love, before they know the black days they will face, the sorrow and tears ahead.
Julia is on the right.
I'll add that it wasn't just our family that had this effect on me. Especially in our wedding video, I was struck and my heart was overwhelmed as I looked at my bridesmaids walking up the aisle. Two have had relatively quiet lives (I think), but the others have had whirlwinds of trouble. I wanted to reach into the TV screen, grab them by the shoulders, hug them, and tell them it would be okay.
Afterward I felt emotionally exhausted, but there was something else -- a strangeness, a feeling of displacement, of having returned to the past and participated again in the children's little lives, a feeling of confusion in the present, and a longing for those years that surpasses the longing one feels when awakened from a good dream. A feeling of longing and regret.
I never understood this before. There's something about watching moving pictures, people's facial expressions,twinkling smiles, gait and movement that's missing in photographs. It's the real they, It's Philip building legos on Christmas morning and smiling up at me. It's Anna dancing in the living room and twirling her nightgown. It's Peter running around outside with Lacey, his little legs pumping. It's Julia taking her first crawl across the floor and squealing. I'm so happy I have these videos! I'm thrilled to see them again, to see my lost children again. Make no mistake! I adore them full grown. I only wish I could have both -- my big kids and my littles. Is that what being a grandparent is all about?
By the way, I'm gonna put a plug in here for the company my son works for in Chattanooga. It's called Southtree, and they convert/transfer your old photos, reels, home movies, VHS tapes, cassette tapes -- whatever you've got -- onto nice DVD, CD, or zip drive. That's how I watched mine. That link goes to their web site. They have "Legacy Boxes," a box they will send you for $40, and you can put your items into it, and it's all ready to ship straight back to them; they make it easy! Plus, if you type their name into Google, it looks like there is a GroupOn for them, %75 off. Sounds like a great deal! Seriously -- I'm so glad I did this. I'm so sorry I waited as long as I did.

I know many friends are in those emotional years of sending kids off to college. We've accomplished a big goal! We've grown them up! They're flying from the nest! I sent off three kids in four years, and after that I lay back in exhaustion and reveled in my accomplishment. I was so consumed with how far we'd come I forgot to remember the precious years. These home movies are helping me hold on to that. And since I still have one last girl at home, for only this last year, I want to pinch myself regularly and remember to enjoy every day before she's gone too.


  1. I almost wanted to cry along with you, remembering the past and all that has transpired... Usually we are too busy enjoying what we have and do right now, to take a long look back, but when we do... it's at things that are lost and gone! So sad, I know.... And yet, God will gather all the times together in the end, so they aren't lost forever. Keep plugging away in the present, and soon, it will all come together again in the fullness of His Kingdom. Love to you, Mary Kathryn!

  2. That stirred up many emotions. I have a lot of videos made when Daughter was a baby/toddler/infant. I have very mixed feelings about sitting down to watch them.

  3. I really identify with the crying at remembering the past. I often feel really strongly about the past, family and all that was. I am so glad you had the opportunity to see them!.x

  4. Such good thinking here, dear MK. I was watching the movie Family Man (all about what if's) and thinking about this very thing. Life and the journey are so fascinating. Memories are so holy. I'm glad I kept journals AND videos. I remember when Gretchen had such a moment looking at a photo of Bill when he was a child, innocent and unknowing of what his adult life would look like. Oh, I feel so very appreciative of God's covering, His great GRACE, and His shepherd's crook. SO grateful. I love you, wise friend.


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