It is probably a safe assumption to make…. that those of us who have been molested do not keep pictures or mementos around of those who have molested us. I shouldn’t assume, I should just speak for myself. I don’t keep pictures or mementos of an abuser.
Or didn’t think I did.
But today I was working on a little project. More accurately I was with some of my friends who are more technologically advanced than I am and they were working on a project for me. I was there to enjoy. Years and years ago my father loved to record us as we grew up. “Record” as in record on an 8 mm movie camera. No sound. No real direction to the tapes. Just hundreds of snipets of our lives. Caught. Captured. Recorded. We had had them transposed on to VHS tapes decades ago. Now, we were working on transferring them to DVD.
Though neither my father, or the brother operating the camera, had anything that would resemble a steady hand or an ability to focus they did manage to capture some clear shots.
They managed to capture our geeky appearance, crooked teeth, torn jeans days, of childhood. Showing full heads of the thickest hair ever grown on humans. Recording us dressed all nice and neat or covered in mud and muck. Mixing all of the moments up. Christmas. First communion. Graduation from grade school. Baby moments. Toddler moments. Adolescent moments. Running down hills, back in the day when running down hills was loads of fun. Even more so when dad was down there to catch you because you rolled up so much momentum that if he didn’t you ran for days before you could stop. And the best of fun, when he pretended he was going to catch one of the bigger kids and didn’t. And those kids had to guess whether they would be caught or end up rolling in the dirt. Fun times. Laughing times. Family times.
There’s my baby brother in those old fashioned rubber pants you wore over diapers. There he is a little bit bigger. Potty trained. But .. oh look, he loves to stand outside and pee in high arcs. How do we know? Because it is caught on 8 mm.
There’s mom sunbathing. There’s mom yelling at dad to stop filming her. Yes, you can read her lips.
It is also true that fake fur coats were all the rage in the 1970’s. I am absolutely sure of their unrealistic nature. There were no animals that hue of blue. Or patterned with that awful zig zag weave. God would not do that to an animal. But yes, parents did it to children. Ours did anyway.
And there…there! Faces of my grandparents! All four of them. Proof positive of Grandfather’s incredible back scratching! Grandmother who I remembered with a sternness, but looking at her as an adult….she is trying so hard not to smile. She was having fun. Grandma and Grandpa!!!! Arms around kids. Kids climbing upon them. Grandma Maggie ! Wondering what in the world happened that she is suddenly swarmed upon by children everywhere! And there she was getting “Corny” the wooden plaque that my oldest brother made her.
Faces of neighborhood friends flash before the camera.
Faces of my parents older friends, people I remember. There’s Tolley! There’s Ralph! There’s Mr. Corbit! So many far away faces. I smiled inside. They’re all gone now. But not forgotten.
Places of childhood memories flit back and forth from one day to a year later. To five years earlier. There was no rhyme or reason to how we put the 8 mm tapes together. No time line or order. We just wanted to preserve them.
Sitting right there. In front of me. From many many years ago. A face on the TV screen appeared.
The face of abuse.
I said out loud “that’s the man who molested me”.
I’m not sure what the others in the room thought. I didn’t look at them. My friend said “him?” I said yes. She was immediately disgusted. And I love her for that.
I can’t say I was startled. I can’t say I was surprised. Though it’s been many years since I have seen these videos I have seen them before. Surely I knew it was there. I didn’t have a shock. I didn’t even care. I just said it. Out loud. Because it’s true. Because it happened. Because I can say it. My moment didn’t pivot out of control. My heart did not palpitate. My life is no worse for having seen him again. I will edit him out once we get it transferred and have the ability to do so without ruining the rest of the memories. But even seeing him did not ruin my memories of today. He went off of the screen. And an image of my baby sister came on the screen. Immediately my heart lifted. Immediately where there was emptiness there was now fullness.
For an hour and a half I watched parts of my life flash and flicker. I laughed as I watched my very dignified (now) brothers skip and dance. Thrilling at the idea of showing their children that their parents were goofy as children. Goofier, I dare say, than they would ever have believed. I groaned at some of the clear shots of our outlandish outfits. Groaned even more at the out of focus clips that lasted for nearly a minute. Knowing the out of focus face is no longer with us. Seeing dad so handsome and young.
Seeing my life from a different time. Full of good people. Good times. And family. What joy lies in those captured moments. What laughter and humor at looking back at the moments of childhood that I shared with only seven others in this world. What a fabulous treasure, memorial, to my childhood.
And not caring-
When I saw his face.
His face is not a representation of my childhood. His face was a representation of his actions and his actions alone. He – is only what he did.
I – am all that I have done.
He does not matter. Because my life is full. My moments have outlived the fear he inflicted.
Because I am stronger than the face.
Because there is no victim here.
My life mementos do not include….him.