Slide shows then and now

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Eastern Pas­sages Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 35 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at [email protected]­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky

A long time ago in far-off Hal­i­fax, in the year 1977 BSM (Be­fore So­cial Me­dia), I be­lieve, I went out to din­ner with my par­ents.

A par­tic­u­lar din­ner, com­plete with a les­son.

We were go­ing to the home of some not-so-close friends of my par­ents, a sum­mer­time din­ner in a South End Hal­i­fax neigh­bour­hood. It was the kind of neigh­bour­hood where the thick leafi­ness of the sum­mer trees — oaks and maples and fail­ing elms — made even a loud party seem close to po­lite.

Sum­mers in Hal­i­fax al­ways seemed slow and drawn out to me, par­tially from the long days, and par­tially from the lack of school, I think.

Nei­ther of my broth­ers went along, but I went for two rea­sons: the hosts were known for mak­ing a chip dip — us­ing pack­aged dry onion soup and sour cream — that I could not re­sist. I also had a sort of teenaged crush on their daugh­ter, the kind of un­re­quited crush you can only have on some­one two years older than you who is com­pletely and ab­so­lutely obliv­i­ous to your ex­is­tence. (The kind of daugh­ter who wouldn’t be caught dead at some­thing as dull as a parental din­ner party, as I soon learned.)

Din­ner was roast beef, and I be­lieve pota­toes and green beans. (It was a long, long time ago.)

But while there are things I strug­gle to re­mem­ber, there are oth­ers I won’t for­get.

Af­ter din­ner un­rolled the way din­ner par­ties of that age were ex­pected to go (com­plete with a dessert con­sist­ing mostly of pineap­ple, minia­ture marsh­mal­lows and whipped cream), we went to the liv­ing room, where­upon the hus­band took a pic­ture off the end wall, set up a slide pro­jec­tor, and be­gan the show.

Slide shows, in case you don’t re­mem­ber them or haven’t ever ex­pe­ri­enced one, are mea­sured in terms of an ar­chaic term known as a “carousel.” A carousel, the kind that used to sit atop a Ko­dak pro­jec­tor, holds 80 slides. Three is a long show.

That night, I lost count af­ter seven.

It was the ex­e­ge­sis of a par­tic­u­lar and dis­tinct fam­ily unit, a study, I should point out, that mat­tered par­tic­u­larly and only to those steeped in that fam­ily unit’s leg­end and lore.

River trips. Chil­dren at var­i­ous points of grow­ing up. A Euro­pean trip. Restau­rants. More restau­rants. Main cour­ses. Desserts. Ex­pen­sive restau­rants. Big fam­ily cars. Big­ger chil­dren now. Two dif­fer­ent dogs that died. The veg­etable gar­den. The flower gar­den. Peo­ple in the ocean. Peo­ple com­ing out of the ocean. Peo­ple on tow­els be­side the ocean. “Here I am in Florence.” You get the idea.

There’s a cer­tain amount of boast­ing in any cel­lu­loid travel down mem­ory lane, whether it’s through home videos, slideshows, or the even more ter­ri­fy­ingly hand­held-shot and unedited Su­per-8 movie — it’s un­in­ten­tional, I’m sure.

I think if any­thing, the mes­sage you could take from the evening is that you should al­ways keep in mind that there are things that you find im­por­tant that oth­ers might not find as com­pelling. It was a long night. I re­mem­ber my fa­ther, a big, gen­tle, bearded man, eas­ing him­self into the front seat, turn­ing to my mother and say­ing, “El, we don’t ever have to go back, do we?” as she stick­han­dled our big Volk­swa­gen van into gear.

“No,” she said. “No, we don’t.”

I don’t think we ever did. Luck­ily, slides have pretty well gone the way of the dodo, and we no longer have to be sen­tenced to the in­ter­minable and boast­ing fam­ily slide show.

We’re bless­edly free of all that now, I think, as I turn to­wards the com­puter and flick on Face­book.

Oh, wait …

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