The good news about relocating, if there is any, lies in the way some long-lost possessions of yours have a habit of resurfacing. Not exactly long-lost, that is, because truly lost they never were, but lost-from-the-radar.
So it was with an unlabeled DVD that emerged from our container a few months ago, without a case or any markings. We slid it into the DVD player to see what it was and immediately we were transfixed, our entire family, plopping down wherever we stood to look at this version of us circa ten years ago.
Apart from us all looking much younger, it seemed like such an alien life.
Eating in high chairs.
Singing “I’m a Little Teapot” before bedtime.
Easter egg hunts
The frenzy of four kids tearing open Christmas presents.
And bath scenes.
Lots and lots of bath scenes.
One might think I was fascinated with naked and splashing kids, but the truth is that it was probably the only time they were all confined in one space and not fighting, giving me a rare opportunity to make use of the camera. I’m not kidding, I have hours and hours of bath tub footage spanning about four years, as we discovered once the remaining twelve or so “Memory DVDs” were located.
Over the course of the next three days the kids embarked on a marathon of “watching memories.” Noisette, a few years ago, had decided to get our old VHS tapes copied onto DVDs, and it was a good thing. Because does anyone still own a VHS player? It would have helped, mind you, if someone had had the sense of labeling the resulting DVDs, and I now vaguely remember that this might have been my job. As it was, we randomly inserted these disks one after the other, and each time one of the kids would yelp with glee when it featured them and not their brother or sister.
I myself couldn’t help but watch as well, drawn to these old memories like a fly to honey, and also out of a sense of “now or never” in terms of getting that pesky labeling project out of the way. Can I just remind you that this was about two days after our container had arrived, and the house was a complete disaster. The last thing I had time for was sitting on the sofa. There was so much sorting still to be done, and yet I found I couldn’t tear myself away from the TV, try as hard as I might.
Did our kids really use to be so little and so cute? Did they really have such tiny high voices? We were all mesmerized by this trip down memory lane. And it proved to be a great resource to clear up topics of debate and general uncertainties.
Like, who did that bobby car we had forever belong to? Answer: Impatience. She had gotten it for her 1st birthday in 2001, it was all right there in the video. She was delighted in hindsight that it was actually hers, and she can be forgiven for believing it was someone else’s because, as was evident in the video, her brothers immediately appropriated it, not even letting her put the doll she also got that day into the back of it, yelling “no” at her in no uncertain terms and dumping the doll onto the floor. Amazingly, she took it all in stride and didn’t complain once. Oh, to have those days come back!
It also brought some unpleasant truths to light. Like whatever happened to those really cool toys we used to have? The ones you can see right here in the video and now we don’t have them anymore? Answer: Mom donated all of them. I was always able to deflect these questions in the past, by either feigning ignorance (“I have no idea which toy you’re talking about”), or shifting blame (“you must have lost it, you always lost so many things”), or using that timeless tool of the expat mom (“it must have gotten lost in the move”), but somehow having the visual proof of their existence in front of our eyes, so to speak, made me ‘fess up.
What we also saw during our memory binge was a succession of cats. There was Moritz with the kink in the tail who had shown up at our gate in Singapore one day, stinking of fish and crying to the high heavens. He was a great pet and lasted about two years until he inexplicably disappeared. Our maid Ampy maintained he was kidnapped because he had such a nice tail (even a kink is better than no tail at all, which is the fate of many Singaporean cats), but I have my doubts. I still find it suspicious that he should disappear when Noisette was solely in charge of feeding him during the kids’ and my home leave. There was Angus, who we adopted from some lady who rescued cats at an abandoned race track, and who drew the fate of having to make an international move with us (Angus, not the lady). Or, actually, with Noisette, who was rightly saddled with the embarrassment of hauling a screaming cat through three airports to atone for the disappearance of Moritz. Then there was Kika, a cute little black kitten who was deathly afraid of everything and had a habit of climbing up really tall trees, coaxing and cajoling her down of which occupied the better part of two years, and who inexplicably disappeared into the woods behind our house one day. Which, it must be said, were the same woods Angus disappeared into a few years before her. There was a brief cat hiatus after that, because we weren’t sure what lurked in those woods, but a few moves later we acquired Oreo, who was actually not a cat but a bunny. Who had a preference of spraying pee on those of us he liked best, somehow managing to squirt it horizontally out of his cage. And finally, there was Maus, who stayed behind in South Africa and who none of us needed reminding of as the kids were still crying bitter tears over her. But we didn’t want to introduce anything lurking in woods into her life, so we chose to leave her in the safety of Johannesburg.
Another thing that resurfaced or rather emerged from one of our suitcases: An unlabeled bag of dried leaves. Zax took one look at it, said “really?” and eyed us with what I can only describe as new-found respect. I hated to burst his bubble but had to admit it was merely a bag of mint leaves I had haggled over in the bazaar in Dubai, together with some vanilla beans. “Poof” went the respect when Zax realized it wasn’t, after all, some pot that his cool mother had smuggled through customs. I refrained from asking him how, exactly, he knew what the leaves of the cannabis plant might look like.
I hope it doesn’t have to do with any memories of his.