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The way we were

Published December 12. 2009 09:00AM

Boy. I sure was a dorky looking kid.

I came to that conclusion, again, on Thanksgiving Day. We had the pleasure of watching old home movies, thanks to the loan of a couple of DVDs made by my aunt and uncle's grandson.

My Aunt June and Uncle Bobby Wernett were always the first in our large extended family to have all the new gadgets and gizmos. They were the first to have a color television, the first to have a swimming pool. One Sunday, they arrived with a movie camera. That was the day we all became "movie stars" for the first time.

We kids hovered around watching my uncle take out a bar with lights attached and a long electrical cord. My aunt was his "light gal." When he turned them on, it blinded us all. As are eyes adjusted to the brightness, Uncle Bobby began filming.

Of course, we kids clamored to be in the movie, mugging for the camera, being totally obnoxious. The aunts and uncles even got goofy.

Some 40 years later, I pop a DVD in the player and we are transported back to "the good old days."

My mom, my sister and me are the only ones watching the movie who are in it. But our kids and spouses are tickled to see our much younger selves as much as we are.

There I am with my ugly cat's eye glasses. There's Diane (before braces) with a huge gap between her front teeth and curly hair.

"See Abby, where you got your curly hair from," my mom points out to her youngest granddaughter.

Abby is entranced to see her mother at about the same age she is now, running and swimming.

We laugh when my mom pops on the screen doing a sexy little dance waving a spatula while grilling hamburgers.

We "oooh" and "aaah" as my Aunt Shirley appears in her wedding gown with her bridesmaids and flower girl, (Diane) all dressed in white. My 21-year-old niece, Jennie Rose, says, "How come all the girls are in white like the bride?" and we tell her how that was the fashion in the 50s and 60s.

We notice how every time our cousin Denise is in the movies, she's wearing a pretty frilly dress with fancy socks with lace and black patent leather shoes.

"That's so not Denise now," my sister chuckles.

Everytime we see someone for the first time we yell out their names in pure delight.

"There are the twins!" "Look, it's Uncle Harry and Aunt Phyllis!" "Wow, look at Uncle Dick playing badminton. What a stud!" "Aunt Peggy's pregnant!"

We always arrived at my grandparents in our Easter finery so they could see how nice we looked and Uncle Bobby filmed us in our own Easter parade.

"Oh, look at my girls in their hats and gloves," sighs Mom.

Mom walks toward the camera modeling her stylish hat with matching shoes and gloves.

Uncle Paulie struts across the screen without a shirt. But that's how he always looked. Even in the winter time, he'd be bare-chested in the house. What made it so funny is, he always had such a big belly, rock solid. And jolly. He was always so jolly.

When my grandmother appears on the screen, we all react the same. "Ohhhhh, Mammy." We are so joyous to see her beloved face but what's so great about seeing it on DVD compared to all the photographs we have of her, this is Mammy in motion smiling, dancing, and even kissing Pappy. Diane and I sit in amazement.

"Gosh, I don't ever remember seeing Mammy and Pappy kissing," I say as Diane agrees.

But there they are.

When my dad appears in a tuxedo, we're all kind of silent. Gosh, he looks so young and handsome.

"That's your Pappy," my mom tells her grandkids with a sad smile. "Isn't he good looking?"

My Uncle Bobby did us all such a great favor by buying his Kodak 8 mm movie camera. Photographs are wonderful, but film captures so many nuances of people-the way they walk, the way they interact with others, bringing their personalities into focus, unlike a still picture.

As I watch the movie, the lyrics from Barbra Streisand's "Memories" flow through my mind.

"Memories, Like the corners of my mind

Misty watercolor memories

Of the way we were.

Scattered pictures

Of the smiles we left behind

Smiles we gave to one another

For the way we were.

Can it be that it was all so simple then

Or has time rewritten every line

If we had the chance to do it all again

Tell me - would we? could we?


May be beautiful and yet

What's too painful to remember

We simply choose to forget

So it is the laughter

We will remember

Whenever we remember

The way we were."

I ask myself if it really was all so simple then and yes, I know time does rewrite every line. But like the song, I choose to forget the painful and remember the laughter.

As all those happy, laughing people, many who are no longer with us, flash across the screen, I count myself so lucky to have known that joy and these people. I cherish every minute of the way we were.

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