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Su Lum: Home movies

It seems that quite a few Super 8 projectors are hiding out in local basements, since I got four calls and Martha Madsen brought hers over to the Times last Wednesday when my column came out pleading for the loan of one. Thanks, guys!

Nothing can cause my meltdown faster than mechanical problems (that goes double for computers), so it took a few days, what with little lie-downs between episodes, to figure out things like: how to get the top off, why the film was burning, why I had a lap full of film and how to rewind.

On Sunday, my daughter Skye, her husband Steve and my granddaughter Riley came for dinner and home movies. Riley, who is 12 1/2, brought a photo album she’d recently come across, exclaiming over pictures taken when she was a toddler: her past. She’d see a lot more “pasts” before the evening was out.

The one I was most interested in was a film of the old Aspen Meadows racetrack. Visiting the overgrown track a few weeks ago was what set this whole

project off, and seeing as it was in the early ’70s (the old tent in the background, a more elaborate series of jumps than I had remembered) was fascinating.

Then we went deeper into the movies and found it difficult to reject any of

them because there was always a moment that couldn’t be tossed: sweet shots of dear friends, some dead, and pets, all dead, the panning of blocks long gone to make way for new construction on back streets without a car in sight, would be interspersed among what seemed like miles of dark shadows or overexposures, but the prospect of editing them was daunting even if I had the viewers and splicers and splicing tape I used to have, equipment now obsolete. That’s why these short films were on the “too lousy to keep and too good to throw out” shelf in the first place.

Riley saw her mom and aunt Hillery grow from small children to teenagers with all their changing fashions and hairdos. There were no shots of Skye when she had her hair long and dyed purple, but since it’s a family legend it came up once again, how I had said, “I hope that’s a HAT, Skye” and shut myself in my room because I couldn’t look at her without crying and she took it as rejection. I ran my hand through Riley’s waist-long mane and asked, “If Riley did it, could you keep from crying?”

In the oldest movie, Riley saw my mother, her great-grandmother, who is now pushing 97, at a birthday party for my older sister. I hadn’t been born yet and my mother was in her mid-20s, looking like Joan Baez.

Riley saw Skye, 12, Hillery, 10, and me, 38, visiting my maternal grandmother, Monie, in a nursing home in Alabama shortly before she died in her 90s. Monie was born in the late 1870s. During the two-hour show, Riley had seen a span of five generations whose lives covered 125 years.

80 or 90 years from now, if we all keep up with the technology to keep these films, Riley might be showing these movies to her progeny along with videos of her own past, present and future: eight generations spanning two centuries.

[Su Lum is a longtime local who always has mixed emotions when she goes back in time. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]


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