I know what you’re thinking– “Phoebe, how can you have nostalgia for the 90’s? You were born in ’98!” — but that, children, is where the invention of the video tape comes in.
My sister, lucky that she is, has a boyfriend. Whilst they’re now living together, by some small miracle, he had yet to be subjected to the baby videos. Given that my sister is 23, all of her early childhood is recorded was recorded through film cameras and VHS tapes. Que the Hedges family relic being dug out from behind the ps4, the ps3 and the wii, plugged into the charger before then being plugged into the television.
A few moments of static, and then ‘Christmas 1999 – Joanne and Wally’s’ (dir. my dad) appears on the screen, live and in colour. Of course, the tape is half way through the middle, so we hit pause and watch as white lines dance up and down the screen, and my second Christmas is played out, silently, in reverse. It features well-known actresses such as my mum and my cousin Jordan. My cousin Sean takes a lead role as ‘kid excited about new toy’.
Most special of all, perhaps, is the supporting role played by Henry Marsden, better known by his stage name ‘Blue Grandad’. A man who I wish I could remember, a man who I wish I knew.
The tape pops out, another one is put in– ‘May/June 1996 – Hastings’ (dir. my mum) and there is another person who I’ve never known, but has shaped my life dramatically. Elsie May Marsden– aka, ‘Pink Nanny’. Never fully in frame, never quite the centre of attention (but why would she be, with a two-year-old in the picture?), but she’s there. She’s helping my sister onto her tricycle, she’s standing behind the camera, making Elise laugh as she drinks lemonade and eats quavers on the kitchen counter.
I tell people that I don’t really have grandparents because it’s easier to explain, and though my sister’s boyfriend has gone home to go to bed, I watch the tv– transfixed because there they are. In a world where I don’t exist, where the idea of me doesn’t even exist, there are my grandparents. A woman I’ve never met, but who’s influence over my life still touches me now– nearly 20 years after her death and my birth.
So no, I’m not nostalgic for the nineties of my childhood. I’m nostalgic for the nineties of my sister– I wish I could watch home movies all day, because one of the key things that interests me is change. How did my sister change from that little cherub to the woman she is now (and how did I, for that matter?) How has the house that we grew up in change since it was bought in 1984? How many ways has my mum changed since becoming a new mother in 1994, to the seasoned parent of two adults in 2017?
Of course it’s easy to look back on the past with low resolution rose tinted glasses, but when you’re watching a kid that small play with her mother’s makeup, or be constantly asked “what did you do today” and always answer with “I don’t know”, it’s hard to deny that the world was simpler then.