The Futility of Collection

Dearest Rachel –

So the other day, I started working on those video tapes from downstairs; playing them on one of our old VCRs, running the output through the converter box, and turning them into digital files. I’ll probably be putting one of them up on my channel at some point today, because I need it available to link to an upcoming letter. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it.

It’s actually a bit more challenging than I thought it was going to be, because six hours of ELP footage simply won’t fit on the converter box. So I have to check in on the process every hour or so, stop the recording once it gets to the end of a program, and then move the resulting file to a separate drive before proceeding with the next hour’s worth of footage.

And that’s not saying anything about the fact that some of the tapes are not in the best of shape. One of the first ones I went through, in fact, had a note you had chalked on it warning yourself to burn the tape after viewing it, the footage was so bad. And let me tell you, you weren’t lying. No amount of tracking adjustment could fix the results. I found myself going through some of our other hard drives, to see if we had copies of some of the shows elsewhere.

I even went so far as to look up a show that was on that badly damaged tape, to see if I couldn’t find a better quality copy of the episode – or better yet, the series. Lo and behold, I did find it, and promptly went about acquiring it. And it was at this point, when I hit the button to request it, that I found myself wondering “why am I doing this? I’m not particularly interested in this show. And it’s not like you’re going to watch it. So what’s the point?”

I used to do this for you, back when you would miss an episode of a show that you liked (even if it was one that I wasn’t fond of). You would watch it during the day, when I was out at the office, and more often than not, you would recap the storyline to me when we would walk Chompers or over dinner or whatever. But that’s never going to happen again. So… why am I bothering with this again?

There’s no satisfactory answer to this question. For all I know, it could just be magical thinking, wherein if I gather up your stuff together in a little pile, you might just come back for it. Maybe it’s something a little more practical, wherein I move all this saved media to something more accessible so I can move the tapes themselves into some little corner of the crawlspace rather than having them take up all that room in the basement. Although it begs the question as to why I’m keeping the tapes, rather than throwing them out, particularly if it’s established that I’m not going to be watching them again – all of which assumes I ever bother to watch what I’m converting, even.

It’s possible that, after all this going through the house, discarding everything of yours that we’ll assuredly never use, I’ve come to my limit. I have to keep these things somehow, even though there’s clearly no sentimental value to them – at least, not most of them. There are a few tapes in here somewhere that your father made of you and your mom and any one of your beloved dogs, and no one could fault me for keeping those.

But all these episodes of Svengoolie or Stooge-a-palooza or America’s Funniest Home Videos? There’s no real point in keeping them, is there? They had no sentimental value, other than the fact that you enjoyed them, and in some cases, I enjoyed watching them with you. And somehow, for now, that seems reason enough for me to hang onto them. It’s not a rational choice on my part, but it is my choice for now.

Both of us were, at times, voracious collectors. You had your TV shows and movies series, I had my manga – both in physical and digital form – and anime (okay, that last one was something of a shared indulgence). One day, Daniel is – in theory – going to find himself sorting through all this, and getting rid of all of it, much the way I’ve done with your stuff. So much of it will be things that he will look at, and find himself wondering “what did dad see in this?” and promptly discard.

And such as the futility of collecting things; those connections mean something to us, if little more than the time and effort spent (to say nothing of the funds involved) to assemble it. But to a disinterested party – even to those that would count themselves among our loved ones – there is no intrinsic value to them. At best, it becomes an enduring mystery as to why we prized these things. At worst, it becomes only so much clutter, to be gathered up and disposed of.

And so go the pieces of our lives; off hopefully to some other collector’s hands via a secondhand thrift shop, but just as likely, to a landfill or an incinerator, where the world will never know about it, or us, or how the two intertwined.

Black And White Vintage GIF by FilmStruck - Find & Share ...
Although maybe, given your love of a good fire, that wouldn’t completely displease you. It would serve as a fitting end – even if you might otherwise object to it coming to an end in the first place.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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