reviewing the past

Yesterday I began to upload footage shot on mini-DV cassettes in 2005 and 2006 onto my computer. The most important parts, or at least what I remembered being there, were from a trip to Senegal in 2005.

Confronted with the images from my past, I first felt twinges of nostalgia for countries where I’ve had both love and joy. The shaking of my unprofessional hand, and the spinning images taken from inside a car as we drove by a baobab forest, however, left me somewhat nauseated. I had attempted to capture every moment, so as not to forget. Hoarding memory. What I remember of Senegal is quite different than what I see on that film.

And then the camera turned on me in a very long scene chronicling family visitation in the hospital after my nephew’s birth. My discomfort and pleasure holding the infant was apparent on my face and in my voice. It pained me to watch myself look up at the cameraman, my ex-husband, to ask him to take a picture. I saw how I looked at him like a child who needed to be ordered around. I saw in that brief moment the child we did not have together, that I miscarried. I heard his uncertain voice, tentative, like always. And then I easily edited him out of the footage. I removed the clip of me looking up, and I saved the film to give to my step-brother for Christmas.

What I remember of that day is nothing compared to the laboring over the film – the time it took to upload and the multiple trips back through it to properly edit the files together. My memory is now altered, skewed, and preserved differently, for me and for my family. My account, now fiction, is about to be disseminated as truth; yet, it feels more honest not to share that exchange of glances and few words that were likely unheard the first time.


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