Sunday, April 15, 2012
This is the camera I looked into for about 19 years of my life. And those were the years I lived in Utah, Texas, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho, went to Disneyworld, wore my first swimsuit, took my first steps, took off for my first day of school, even ran through my backyard sporting my first perm. That's the lens I gazed back at as some of my greatest milestones slipped away and my father watched them through the viewfinder and clicked a few judicious shots. Now in those days, of course it was film. So, you took a picture maybe two, not 1000. And you never really knew what shot you got until the entire roll was spent and you dropped it off for developing.
Use of the camera was rare enough; I knew that something was very special if I saw my father slide it in his pocket. I also knew he wanted to remember the event, remember me. The moments caught with a click and then the zip, zip, zip of him cranking the film to the next frame.
As sharp as I may be, my memory isn't. Some of my memories are really just memories of the photos taken and the stories retold. In fact, one of my favorite memories is a picture of my father that was taken with this camera. He was 19, single, living in Germany. Obviously, there was no me so it's not really my memory. But when I think about my father, sometimes that’s the image that comes to mind, not the way I most recently saw him.
About the same time I moved away and struck out on my own, my father stopped using that camera. As strange as it sounds, I started to worry about it. Where would it go? Would it be discarded? Forgotten? Destroyed? And then I decided I couldn't handle that. So, I asked my father if I might have it for my inheritance.
This year for my birthday, he sent it to me. (Don't worry; he's still alive and kicking.) He sent me the camera that documented flashes of my growing up.
The Rollei is not the only thing I inherited from my pop. I inherited his hair color, his strangely fleshy knuckles, and his running stride. I suppose there are a few other things, things that are obvious in photographs. But there also a few things that are not. Whether the gifts you inherit are waves of nostalgia skidding across your brain, pumping through your veins, or making your heart skip a beat they are yours to keep, create your life around, and sometimes pass on to the next line of warriors in your family. Learning the significance of each and how they bind us together and remind us how alike we are is what helps us survive the journey.
I knew I should have asked for the corvette.