Back in the Seventies when I was somewhere between nine and fourteen our cow gave birth. Her name was Sable Maple Gypsy and she was a Jersey. Gypsy actually gave birth to a calf a year for almost a decade, but this story is about the time the video tape ran out just before the moment the calf (Finally!) slipped from her body.
We had all been waiting for this birth, watching for signs that Gypsy was getting ready.
We watched for mood changes and for discharge.
We checked on her night and day.
We marveled at her impossibly enormous middle supported by spindly, knobby kneed legs and at her cartoonish udder.
When the time finally came our friend with the video equipment was there to capture the magic. I get confused about the details of this particular birth because during my childhood I was lucky enough to watch several. I can say that the birthing involved us sitting in a circle in the hay around a heaving, panting, bulging eyed cow for many hours, while my mom held Gypsy's head. First, a tiny hoof emerged, and then another, usually crossed, and then a nose and a tongue, and a huge forehead (Poor Gypsy) , and then a slippery, slimy body in a sac, and then a whole lot of afterbirth which Gypsy ate. Anyway, this particular birth was never captured the way we'd planned. I remember our video friend howling with disappointment! My hope is that he lost track of the amount of tape because watching the real thing was so amazing. There could be no "Take Two." Gypsy, of course, experienced everything In The Moment.
I am thinking about all this as I charge up my camcorder so I can record my son's Hapkido belt test later today. I guess I am like many parents who document and record our kids' lives and big moments with cameras. It is useful, as homeschoolers, to have a nice record of all of our doings. Mostly it helps remind me how much stuff we do in a year when I start to wonder if we are doing "enough." I want my boys to have a way to look back on their childhoods someday. In some ways it is soothing to imagine that we can preserve something of our lives, and our kids' lives, which tend to have the pesky habit of slipping past us. I am beginning to realize, however, that if we parents are recording big moments with handheld devices we are not experiencing them fully as they are happening. We are experiencing ourselves recording a moment which we will never get to experience again. We may have similar moments, or believe that we will. But we will have lost that moment as pure experience and as part of our internal memory.
During my son's last belt test I took pictures of him getting his belt. While others clapped I was clicking. I have pictures, but I really don't know what I missed. Unless my hard drive crashes and my photo archives decompose my son will have outer documentation of some of his moments. Yet his own experiences will be independent of me, my camera, and whatever images I happen to "capture." He will be living in the moment.