Last week, I pulled out my dad’s 8mm projector so that I could show my kids some old home movies (although I guess I should call it my projector since my dad’s not here anymore). There were so many to choose from, I decided that we would watch the ones labeled “Disney World” since we’re taking a trip there in a few months.
We settled into my sons’ room to watch the film. I had hung a white sheet down from the top bunk of the bunk beds so that we had something to project the film on. As the film rolled, my kids were somewhat fascinated by the images that were projected on the sheet before them. The only sound that they heard, other than their own laughter, was the sound of the chuck-a chuck-a chuck-a of the projector as it whirled around and around, displaying images from nearly forty years ago.
In its infancy, Disney World looked different than it does today and the people in the images looked different too. As I watched images of myself, my brother, and others in my family roll across the screen/sheet, I began to smile as I remembered spending evenings with my mom, dad, and brother watching these same images so many years before. We would laugh and joke about what we saw and enjoy time together. Dad was always the one who would load the camera, forbidding anyone else from touching it. He was the keeper of the films, so to speak.
As my family sat on the floor taking in all of the images flashing before them, I was struck by a stunning realization: I was now the keeper of the films, I was in charge, the torch had been passed. I found myself reacting to my kids in a similar fashion to the way that my father had reacted to me and my brother when we were their age. I found myself so consumed with the responsibility of feeding the film into the projector, of being careful with the fragile film, of making sure that the presentation was as clear as possible and that everyone was paying attention. Yes, the torch had been passed.
When I go through certain holidays now, I fondly recall memories of yesterday, when my mom and dad were both still around. I remember the traditions that we celebrated, some of which have been passed on and others which were put away like the boxes of ornaments after the Christmas tree’s been taken down. Now, it’s my responsibility to pass on the torch. Whether I liked it or not, the torch has been passed to me, it doesn’t matter that I think it was passed prematurely. It doesn’t matter that I wish Dad could still do all of these things. It doesn’t matter that I can’t get back yesterday. What matters is that there is still today and possibly tomorrow.
I remember Dad cutting the turkey on Christmas. He would use the electric knife that my mother had been preserving in the box in which it had come, keeping it just like new like so many in her generation. I remember how carefully and delicately he would slice that turkey. Now it’s my turn, the knife’s in my hands and I’m the one who gets to cut the turkey, I’m the one who gets to let my kids see just how to do it. I might not do it the same way, and I might not even do it in such a way that Dad would approve if he were still here, but it’s my way and it’s my turn to pay it forward, to pass it on.
In this day and age when kids are consumed with things that flash and beep, things that shoot and use WiFi, there is something lost every day among the things that used to be. Somehow, we need to pass the torch, we need to carry on traditions. Some of them will stick, others won’t. We can’t be so consumed with what’s being passed on so much as the process of passing. Teaching kids to fish with a hook and a worm. Helping them ride their bike without training wheels. Setting up a sprinkler in the yard on a sweltering hot day. Teaching them how to watch movies that are as old as their dad.
When we take time to do these things, we make memories. They might not like everything that they learn, they’ll wade through it all themselves, but what a privilege to share it together with your kids. After all, they won’t stay kids forever.