My nephew and I have a very close relationship. We talk and/or text each other several times a week. While on the phone the other day, he mentioned that he was watching some home movies that my brother had transferred from VHS to DVD. “I have videos of Christmas from 1995, ‘96 and ‘97,” he said.
Having never seen any of them, I thought it would be fun to watch so I asked him to bring them to my Mom’s house on a day when we were all over there visiting. I should mention that for the first time ever, I’d be watching video of myself at my heaviest weight. That never occurred to me at the time, nor did it occur to me that my husband would be witnessing the same thing.
My nephew pressed the Play button and we all sat back and watched as the camera focused on my Mom and Dad opening gifts with the grandkids. Someone in the background in a familiar voice said something, and the camera panned to the left, where an alternate version of me sat cross-legged on the floor, waving. So very strange. It was me, but it wasn’t me. All of these memories started rushing back into my mind as I watched this other version of Ellen shift from side to side, trying to get comfortable on the floor. Wow. How could I forget that I couldn’t perform the simple act of folding my arms over my chest? I watched as my younger, heavier self rested her arms over her chest by grabbing onto opposite elbows. I watched her avoid the camera at every opportunity. She spoke with an uncertain quietness. She wore clothing that was too large, hoping it would disguise the weight underneath. Memory overload.
I wondered what my husband was thinking. I looked over at him as he sat, watching the TV. I couldn’t read his face. Was it curiosity? Shock? I didn’t want to ask him anything in front of the rest of my family because I didn’t want to put him on the spot, so we all just sat there. Watching.
When we got home that night I asked him what his thoughts were while watching me on the video. He answered my question with a question: ‘What did YOU think of you while watching that video’?
I thought a long time about it. “Well,” I said, finally. “I guess it felt like I was watching a very distant relative of mine that I hadn’t seen in a long, long time.” He nodded. Then he said, “Truthfully, I kept hearing your voice but I didn’t see you anywhere. It was weird. I mean, logically I knew that person was you, but it was like watching someone I’d never met before.’
I’ve been thinking a lot about all the photos and videos that have included me over the years. There have been countless photos that I’ve torn up and thrown away because I hated the way I looked in them. Never in a million years would I have thought that seeing similar photos or God forbid – video, would bring me a sense of accomplishment. Pride, even.
But there I was, face to face with a true-blue before and after.
If you’re one of those people who hides yourself in photos or steers clear of video cameras, you may want to rethink that decision. You are evolving into another version of you, and may someday appreciate being reminded of the different stages of your life. Something to think about.