I hear voices from the basement: talking, giggles, screams. It’s my boyfriend, Billy, editing the home movies of his three kids, now all adults. It’s a labor of love, turning memories into Christmas gifts, birthday presents, family keepsakes.
He smiles and laughs, mesmerized by the video clips of his beautiful daughters of all ages throughout the years. Casey crawling. Allie swimming. Nicole posing on the beach. Vacations in Hawaii. Birthday parties and pony rides. Christmas mornings with mountains of presents. Billy’s so proud of his girls, eager to share their lives from their gymnastic conquests to college graduations. It’s all so lovely. But I wasn’t part of it.
In later-in-life relationships it’s understood we’ve already done lots of living without each other, pasts populated with lovers, spouses, children, friends. Ups and downs. Love and loss. Triumphs and failures. What we are now is in part a result of what we were then.
One of the many things I love about Billy is how much he loves being a father. Taking the stacks of old bulky VHS tapes, he’s tweaking and transferring to DVD their yesteryears. It’s a tedious and time-consuming job, editing out all the minutes of waiting and nothingness – but he’s enjoying the journey.
Whenever I pass his workstation, Billy calls out to me full of excitement about the latest tape: “Look at Allie!” he can’t stop smiling and laughing as she has her way with a plate of pasta. It’s contagious and I’m smiling and giggling, as well. His girls are adorable! Then and now. They’re absolutely lovely: smart, interesting, fun, successful, warm and caring.
Of course, Billy isn’t part of my past, either. He’s not in any family photo albums, never met my Dad, doesn’t know the old neighborhood, and hasn’t been on any of our incredible group vacations. A year or so ago Billy was working on a house project that involved moving stuff in the closets and came upon my wedding pictures. When I got home, he greeted me at the door with the album: “You were a gorgeous bride!”
It’s been over four years since we’ve been together and we keep adding to the memory bank of each other’s history. From the old stories repeated at get-togethers and holidays to cherished photos, we begin to feel connected to – if not present in – each other’s yesteryears. We aren’t part of each other’s memories, but appreciate each other’s past.
Billy’s a wonderful photographer and takes painstaking care to document our lives in photos. We’ve got an album for each year and a separate one for each vacation, our yesteryears. I’m looking forward to filling more albums with a wealth of tomorrows that will become part of our collective past.