Archived Story

Nostalgia: One tape at a time

Published 10:54am Thursday, June 13, 2013

When I think of my father Ty Spears, the first image that pops into my mind is one of him with a 1980s-era video camera – nearly the size of a TV news camera – on his shoulder.

For the majority of my childhood, wherever my dad went, the camera was sure to be close at hand.

At every major family event – birthdays, Christmas, Easter – Dad hauled the monstrous video camera along, outfitted with two-hour VHS tapes and a carrier that was essentially a metal suitcase – to keep the camera safe, of course.

As a young child, I never had issue with having major life events filmed, often feigning surprise or other emotions for the camera’s benefit. But when I got a little older, as most pre-teens tend to do, I suddenly became awkward and painfully aware of the camera’s presence.

One Christmas (and, trust me, I am now embarrassed to admit this), I flat-out refused to walk into the den to see Santa’s spoils unless I had a guarantee that the camera was off. By my high school years, Dad made the move to a small, modern camera, and he still records family events – albeit more discreetly, simply because of the size of the digital device.

As our family has grown older, though, one of our favorite things to do is to pile into our living room, pull out a random VHS tape with Dad’s faded yet consistent writing on the label and watch two hours of our lives from 20 years ago.

The nostalgia can be overwhelming – as the years pass, more and more of those smiling, happy faces are people we’ve lost.

On more than one occasion, I’ve gotten choked up just to hear the voice of someone who died more than a decade ago.

We laugh at the fashions and the jokes that were captured on tape. One thing we’ve noticed, however, is how there isn’t much video of my dad, which makes the ones we find of him all the more special.

A favorite is one of the tapes of him and me playing in my playroom in the house in which I grew up. Dad set the camera in the corner, and for almost the entire tape reads books to three-year-old me, scrambles around on the floor chasing me and plays tea party with me and my favorite stuffed animals.

In another one from a snow day when I was around the same age, he and I are bundled up in warm clothes with a background of solid white. We tie a rope to a sled, and then he proceeds to pull me around the flat yard, with me on the sled laughing and shrieking, “Faster, Daddy! Faster!”

He is visibly exhausted, but he agrees and continues to pull me, much to my delight.

I cherish those videos – and all of those videos Dad patiently made over the years. Those videos are a visual representation of how dedicated Dad has been to preserving our family’s history, no matter how much his shoulder ached from carrying the enormous camera to the beach or to Disney World or to my grandparents’ house for family birthdays.

Father’s Day is Sunday, and I am truly honored to call Ty my father. He is one of the most patient, caring, giving people I have ever been lucky enough to encounter.

So, Dad, thank you. Thank you for spending hours upon hours filming our special family moments.

A memory only goes so far, and those details you were dedicated to capture mean more to me than you will ever know. I look forward to sharing those videos with my own children one day to give them a snapshot of what our lives looked like all those years ago.

In just a few days, I’ll be celebrating Father’s Day with my family at the beach.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll bring down a VHS player and some of those old tapes. I can’t imagine a better way to spend our time together – unless, of course, Dad wants to recreate our “snow day” and pull me around by pool float in the sand.

On second thought, a lot has changed in 21 years – we might just want to stick to watching the tapes.

Spears is general manager and managing editor for The Outlook.