For the past five years, I’ve been stalked by two large shopping bags with handles — the large ones with a nice flat bottom. Okay, maybe they didn’t actually “stalk” me, but at times I felt like they did.
I tried finding a place to hide them, but I couldn’t put them in the basement, and even if I placed them on their side, they were too tall to slip under the bed. I put them in my office at my previous house, but every time I went in to use the computer or pay bills or write a letter or . . . well, there they were.
I tried hiding them in my daughter’s closet, but she protested. Vigorously. She is something of a shoe-fiend, and the bags took up precious floor space she needed. And besides, she asked, what was wrong with my own closet?
Absolutely nothing, actually; in fact, it was larger than hers, and I certainly had the space for the 2 bags. I put them in the far back corner, but every time I walked in to get dressed or to put away clean laundry, there they sat.
Of course, it wasn’t really the bags themselves that bothered me; it was the contents of the bag. Inside those 2 bags were 56 tapes — VHS and 8 mm video cassettes that were, for the most part, lacking labels of any kind.
We’d labelled some of them (about 6) back when we first began videoing; eventually, though, that became one more item on the “I’ll do it later” list that never actually got done. Every time I sorted through things, looking for more stuff to donate, recycle, or throw away, I reminded myself I really, really needed to preview them and then do something with the ones that held family videos.
I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, though.
In early December I received an email from a friend in which she shared that she had recently sent of all their videos to be digitalized and was ecstatic with the results. She had 32 tapes, and it cost her less to have the tapes professionally converted than it would have cost to purchase the necessary equipment and software. I asked for the name of the company, checked out their website, and signed up to receive the box in which to send in my tapes.
There was just one problem. I was 99% sure that not all of the tapes held video I wanted to keep. I knew that at least a few held cartoons or children’s movies we’d taped from TV for the kids when they were little, and I certainly didn’t want to pay someone to digitalize a bunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle episodes.
Like it or not, I was going to have to preview each and every tape. I charged the batteries on the 8 mm camera and, on the first morning of Christmas Break, sat down to preview the 8 mm tapes. It was slow going at first, but I remembered that none of these tapes could have been used to tape from the TV, so all I needed to do was watch the first bit of the tape and, if it was blank, fast-forward to see if there was anything further on. I quickly previewed all 18; each held family videos and went into the large box from the conversion service company.
Now it was time to preview the VHS tapes. There arose a 2nd problem — I didn’t have a VCR. A quick trip to a local charity thrift shop and $4 handed over, and I had a working VCR without remote but with the cables needed to connect to the TV.
A few hours later, I had previewed all of the 40+ VHS tapes. As I suspected, more than a few held cartoons, movies, television shows, and even a couple of newscasts. Those tapes were set aside, and the ones with family videos joined the 8 mm tapes in the box. I added the 10 or so tapes of school events that had been made by the school and sold to parents, taped up the box, and took it to the local UPS store.
Now I await the email telling me that the videos have been digitalized and are available in my online account.
A couple of take-aways from this experience:
1. I did the right thing by waiting to tackle this job until I was completely ready. All joking about the stalking bags aside, I wasn’t ready to preview those videos, and I was right in not forcing myself to do it anyway. When I finally sat down and watched them, I was able to do it without becoming even slightly upset. I was able to look back at moments from my family’s past with pleasure and fond remembrance.
2. Sometimes a technical job isn’t as frustrating and time-consuming as I expect it to be. Backstory: My husband was the technical go-to person in our family, and I am known (and with good reason) for being less than tech-savvy.
Perhaps a task of some kind is hanging over your head, waiting to be done. Maybe others are urging you to tackle it and put it behind you. I won’t presume to join the chorus, but I also won’t encourage you to continue putting it off.
Instead, I urge you to make a list (if you don’t already have one) of projects you need to finish. Maybe you need to decide what to do with your wedding photos and memorabilia now that you’re divorced, or perhaps you need to go through your late husband’s shop in the basement and do something with all those tools that are sitting there unused.
Whatever is on your list, next carefully consider each item. Ask yourself if you are ready to undertake each one and, if not, why? Do you know, deep down, that you really are ready but that you just don’t want to do the work. Or are you really not ready? Do you want your children’s input or help?
If you truly are ready, go ahead and dig in. Get it behind you and move on.
If you aren’t, that’s okay, too. Put your list aside and come back to it later.
In a few days, I’ll be able to sit down on the couch with a cup of hot tea & my laptop and view some favorite memories. Christmas mornings and Easter Egg hunts, ball games and school concerts, family vacations and birthday parties. I can relax and enjoy those moments again!