DNA and DVDs
Red Card Roberts
Park Record columnist
My role in my family is not that of the family historian. Given I can barely remember last month, I am certainly not the one charged with passing down generations of stories and recalling the lore of my great, great grandfather’s uncle Horace, who allegedly shot a man in a saloon while handcuffed to a goat.
My older sister, Michele, has spent years retracing our family’s genealogy. She could not only tell you how many kids Horace had, what became of each of them, and connect the dots to our current family, she could also tell you the name of the goat in question.
A few years ago, she and my mom went to Europe on a mission to retrace my grandfather’s steps as he fought in the second World War. They requested official records from the US Army, took love letters they found stowed in my grandmother’s attic, grandpa’s well-preserved journals, and arrived on the beaches of Normandy.
When they returned home they organized all their photos and facts in chronological order, arranged them perfectly so in scrapbooks, and made copies for every member of the family as a Christmas gift. They could tell you exactly where my grandfather was at 10:03am on March 13, 1942, with no effort. While I sometimes I have to Google what year it is. How they feel about Ancestry.com is how I feel about Amazon.com. If either website crashed, we’d have nothing to live for.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t have kids to pass the history of my ancestors down to, but I’ve never really taken much of an interest in anything that happened prior to about 1980. I vaguely know the story of how my parents met — at a party in college — and that’s about all I could write in a memoir.
So I was quite surprised at the interest I took in some old family videos this week. At some point over the last several years, my dad’s sister acquired film from the early-1950s.
She had them restored and put on a DVD for Christmas. We popped them in for a trip back in time to my father’s childhood.
There was no sound or color. Or professional editing. There was a lot of jolting as the cameraman tried in vain to follow a bunch of fast-moving kids darting around a living room. And then a farm. And then trips to the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rushmore.
Though you didn’t see many adults, it was clear there were a couple nearby. The burning cigarettes in an ashtray and opened bottles of booze were strong indications grownups were lingering just off camera.
It was also clear to me exactly which child, on a screen full of many, was my father. He was only a year or so old in the videos, but even at that age, some of his most distinct traits 67 years later were evident. Let’s just say “bowleggedness,” oversized calves, a burly figure and a remarkable ability to run really fast despite all of that are in my DNA.
In some clips my dad is on a horse. In others he’s on Santa’s lap. Or playing in a chicken coop or holding the family dog. Always with (what I hope is a fake) gun. Sometimes two. In the earlier videos, before he can walk, he is crawling with them. He is sitting upright with the help of his mom, pointing a gun at a bird. Or the cameraman. Or “shooting” his brother and laughing as my uncle falls to the ground in mock pain. He is still wearing a diaper, yet so obviously knows where the trigger is and how to aim. I’m not sure how learning to shoot your supper/father/brother comes before learning not to sit in your own waste, but it clearly did for my dad. He’s been an avid hunter his entire life. And now, we have proof he could aim a gun before he could sit upright unsupported. He could probably even aim on while cuffed to a goat.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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