Dad filmed the maid. A lot.

What you can learn from watching old home movies


I don’t remember her, not at all. But boy, does she get screen time! On this long-ago trip to Miami, Dad pointed the old movie camera at our attractive maid more than at the rest of us combined. It’s fair to say that she was much on his mind. And, once in a while, as in the shot below, it’s plain that she knows it.

How I wish I remembered the young woman in this film, even a little! But I don’t.

Watching the rest of these home movies from the ’50s, it’s clear why not: my mother and I had a little heaven built for two. Whenever we appear, I’m sitting on her lap, or enfolded in her arms, or she’s tending me somehow. Often trying to get me to look at Daddy, with the camera.

These old movies are grainy, shaky, out of focus, smudged, dusty, and fly-blown. The color is way off. Except for the maid, the shooting suggests a cameraman with the attention span of a hyperactive three-year-old.

Still I’ve learned a thing or two. Watching them, I see through my father’s eyes in two directions at once:

— Outward, to the toy train on which the maid accompanies his son and daughter.
— Inward, into his mind at age 44, married for 17 years, with two kids aged 8 and 5.