Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Haus der Lüge

After Skylar asked me lots of questions about our life in California, I showed her bits of two video tapes made when we were living in Vallejo, one from a year or so before she was born and one from when she was around five months old. It had been a long time since I'd watched either one. The experience was pure melancholy. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could go back in time and live our life the way it was then?" she asked me and then, "Did you like that life better than the one you're living now?" I couldn't answer her truthfully, because to do so would be to make it seem that I'm unhappy with her when nothing has ever made me happier than she does. But, yes, I'd hop on the time machine without a moment's hesitation. I suppose she picked up on my silent affirmatives, because she followed the questions by stating, "You know, dad, if you hadn't gotten a job at the U of A, we could still be living in that house."

"If only," I thought to myself. The more I reflected on my desire to return, though, the more I realized that the happy life depicted through the video camera lens was more construct than reality. Back in March, 1999, when Skylar was five months old, I was absolutely miserable. Kim was back at work far sooner than she wanted to be. Communications between the two of us had devolved largely into technical questions about child-rearing, brightened only by the occasional moment of shared wonder at our beautiful daughter. I had lost all traction in my progress towards completing my dissertation. And I was spending so much time alone with Skylar at 617 Napa Street that I'd developed strange habits like experimenting with dozens of different recipes for poached eggs. Had it not been for the free tickets Kim got me to Cal games at the skybox in the Oakland Arena, I might have gone completely insane.

Yet when I look at the video now, taking in my perspective on the world, listening to myself talk with and through the camera, all I see at first is a golden age of delight. The footage lies, in other words. But it also manages to reveal a deeper truth that was lurking under all my superficial unhappiness, a love that ended up surviving the stranglehold of everyday stress. I'm hoping that all the pictures I've taken since getting the digital camera last year will turn out to have done the same thing. Right now, though, they are still too close for me to tell.

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