We had some friends over last night and I admittedly coerced them—albeit gently—into watching the video documentary of Opal's first year.
As Opal's first birthday came and went last year, I painstakingly spent dozens of evenings editing the footage from upwards of 40 hours of Opal-video into an hour-and-a-half long film. And then when THAT seemed too lengthy for the family members with shorter attention spans, I painfully edited it even further into a half-hour teaser.
The short version became the most widely viewed of the videos, to my chagrin. The music accompaniment for the longer version is by far superior, truly where the blood and sweat of effort for the project is apparent. But alas, I suppose every fine artist experiences a time when the thing they are best known for is not that which is their best work. Perhaps it is a bold cameo on a butter commercial or a pop-song written in the basement after having ingested one too many pot-brownies that proves to clumsily outshine the artist's subtler, more masterful works of art. Could be anything.
But, the fact is, the longer of the two films—the one that involved hours and hours of methodical effort— rarely gets watched while the short one that emerged at the 11th hour after a few heavy-handed editing evenings comes out quite often.
Jesse stopped the film last night after less than ten minutes, in spite of the fact that our friends—who were, incidentally, the same dear soon-to-be parent friends who the previous blog was written about—were clearly not pained in watching. They fogged up the screen to Jesse's I-Pad and cooed in all the appropriate places. In movie-time, we made it to New Year's 2010 by the time Jesse pulled the plug, clocking Opal in at just over 2 months.
An unfortunate thing to end to the film so abruptly when I hadn't seen it in so long. What?! So soon?! I think I said. I considered faking sick and retiring to the bedroom to view the rest of the film by myself, the long version, with a down comforter pinning down my lower half and a freshly blended smoothie in hand.
But I figured I could always do that later. Hell, Linnie's coming into town for Opal's birthday and we know for certain that she and Grammy Zeb will not require the slightest bit of arm twisting to get them to watch the long version together.
In those few minutes of last night's viewing, I was inundated with a swarm of nuanced feelings. The kind that are akin to memory, weakly painful and somewhat separate from the experience remembered as well as the experience of attempting to remember, only partially penetrating like dew on a windowpane. You see yourself in the images, you know you were there, you know it must have been monumental to be standing in some of those moments, ordinary in others. But you can't go much further than trying on the recollection like a dress or a shoe.
I suppose the distance is there for a purpose, though, or we'd be too weighted in nostalgia to move forward.
There I am in the first scene of the movie, so beautiful with my bedhead and my hospital gown, telling the audience with an exhaustion-induced lisp that I had indeed given birth that morning at 8:41am. We follow the spotlight of the camera through the room before it settles on our child—OUR CHILD— as she sleeps soundly in her clear-plastic hospital-issued bassinet. Her face is unspeakably beautiful, swollen and slightly bruised over the left eye, draped in a head of Liberace-hair. She is swaddled tightly in an envelope of bleached blankets that enhance her shockingly Asian appearance. We stand there in a stupor, completely oblivious to the disruption the video camera bulb must have caused her. We are frozen. Opal shudders without opening her eyes and breaks our spell.
You woke her up, I say to Jesse. My first official experience of deferring blame as a way to cope with her momentary discomfort.
I am familiar enough with the footage from those first few months that I can draw particular clips from the files like songs from a Juke-Box: dialog, instilled background music, all of it.
There are the scenes of her grandparents rocking her for the first time. How Brian tried to nab a quiet moment with her in her bedroom but was unsuccessful when I followed him in with Zebby to speak loudly and obliviously about inconsequential things. In hindsight, this was a mother who was desperate to fill the space, who was not yet ready for silence and the drastic change in reality that such a gap would force her to recognize. I also didn't see it at the time but the film shows Brian tilting his head back into the glider as he rocks her, tuning us all out completely. A look of bliss on his face like he is thinking about sunbathing as a child in a chocolate waterfall.
There are those scenes that were shot when Jesse first went back to work and I invited the camera in as if it were a bridge partner. Having been just me, the dog and this new little human being for whom I was entirely responsible until the day I die, the tiny video recorder turned out to be quite comforting to report to like my own tiny documentary crew. Hours and hours were spent breastfeeding in the beginning and I could drift into a state of such loneliness if I weren't conversing continuously with someone or something, camera included. It was as if I were combing out the thoughts and overwhelm like a mad heap of windblown hair, to keep them from getting too tangled and unmanageable.
These were the weeks before I began to write this blog, when I used verbal reporting as a way of rising to the part of Narrator Of My World. From this vantage point of investigation and disclosure, whether it be verbal or written, I was able to avoid sinking too deeply into the confusion and enormity that came with those feelings of being a new mama. I was able to step back just enough to gain some perspective, to crack a window and stretch my limbs. I gratefully still am.
The next shot in the video was a brilliant one of Opal having tummy time with a perfect naked baby-butt exposed to a drenching of winter-sun through the window. Having been only a few weeks old and tucked into herself like an Easter egg, I couldn't help but wonder if that's what she looked like inside my womb.
There were some shots from the sacred territory of our bed: when she slept between us in that tiny little mattress, when Jesse propped her up in his lap and tapped her belly or whistled to her, when he held her up by her tiny little arms as her head bobbled around like an acorn in a stream.
And like I said, video-wise this was just the first few minutes.
She was profoundly new to the world in those first few months and has long since sloughed off her baby skin for that of a free-roaming, free-thinking dynamo of a toddler.
She sure has grown over the last two short years.
And she most assuredly is not the only one.