Remaining Familiar

from by Athens Boys Choir

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REMAINING FAMILIAR

Last summer I went back to Miami to visit my dad and prove I could be my own therapist. I had been seeing a psychiatrist for no less than a dozen still unresolved issues. Like with most other things, I ignored her advice and, in return, I gave her tips on how to treat me. I decided that I should retrieve old footage of myself as a kid. I wanted to bear witness to myself as a child to prove to there was something there that remained familiar.

So, on my trip back home, I had my dad transfer old VHS tapes to DVD for me. He asked me to log each disk as I viewed them and note the events they documented and the people at each affair. I’m watching the videos now, and as I’m writing this, the Hasidic equivalent to Napoleon Dynamite just came on the screen, half closed his eyes, and chanted in Hebrew. This part I labeled Tony and Yehudit’s wedding.

There are 4 DVD’s. I have a sheet of paper for each one and they all report in first person because I’m just not sure what to call my childhood self. Here I am at Miami’s hottest tourist spot the Parrot Jungle. Me with grandma. Me losing my first tooth. Me running for the hills as Old Faithful explodes. I have watched them all, carefully recording the time stamps and giving credits to the stars and co-stars of Allen and Louise’s wedding. Soon, I will pass these logs to my dad and I have to figure out what to call myself on them. I wasn’t Harvey then but calling myself Elizabeth sounds like I’m talking about somebody else; like I’m talking about a dog I don’t have yet but have already named…a forethought more than a live being deserving of a third person reference. I could call myself “Boogie”, my nickname as a kid but it seems like an awful way to re-introduce myself – an inside joke that makes the other people in the video seem damn right rigid. I get how parents and other family members can have a hard time reconciling the past and present. I feel so separated from myself as a child and yet protective of this virtual stranger. When I first watched the videos, I cringed seeing my body turn when my dad would call out “Elizabeth, say hi to the camera.” I felt offended like he was calling me that to my face in current day and had the urge to correct him. It’s so irrational but these things are tricky.

The last footage of me sent me into convulsions of laughter. It’s labeled “me in Lady Wares”. I’m seven years old in a gold lame’ dress with a deep V neckline and an unknown origin. I trip immediately in a pair of my mom’s high heels before she asks for a take two. The camera shuts off and blinks awake again for a more successful stroll down the walkway from our front door. At this moment I feel more like “Harvey” than any other time in the hours of footage. I’m wearing fake boobs and my dad is trying really hard to get me to say “boobs” – because it’s funny. I keep trying to tell him they are just tennis balls and I keep grabbing at them because I like the feel of the tennis ball fuzz rubbing against my stomach, which is where they eventually landed. My parents shoot this footage like I’m doing a Hollywood interview. My mom tells me to strut and my dad asks me if I’m going to be on Dynasty AND Dallas next season. I tell them I’m going to be starring in “Revenge of the Nerds 2” and promptly trip on the hem of my dress on the way out of the door. It’s all too perfect.

I’m not the psychiatrist I thought I was. There are no answers in this footage. I’m a happy kid. A sad and cranky California tourist. A hula-hoop champion. A birthday girl. An excellent swimmer. I am a busted front tooth and a forehead of black bangs. I don’t have a name anymore but in those videos I run up to the camera and say hi to myself 25 years later and the image is not altogether unfamiliar.

credits

from Heartstrings and Hamstrings, released January 22, 2013

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