The Camera and the Wave

Chris Carroll
C. Carroll|06.24.15

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Chris Carroll
June 24th, 2015

Is it possible that the wave football fans spontaneously propagate at stadiums across America has an actual genetic basis that has been overlooked? My aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins all have been giving up the wave on cue in every home video I've ever seen. The framing of the shots go like this; people sitting across from each other at a table with lots of food with heads bent down and mouths going at it -- some chewing others talking. Then, that first person senses that they are being watched. That first head tilts toward the camera and then, in coordinated slow motion, everyone tilts, sees the Super 8 camera, sits up a bit straighter, and then, as if on cue, the wave begins. Everyone is waving at the camera in unison. That's it.

I remember how boring I thought it was that everyone waved. It surprised me that no one else found it odd that this happened repeatedly. I figured the wave was probably not what my Uncle Matt wanted when he hauled out the camera at all family events. I imagine I was right as Uncle Matt was in advertising and had real equipment. His ads ran on local television and sometimes a lucky family member got to be in one. But he never coached anyone during family time, and so the wave continued.

My parents got their own Super 8 camera and I specifically remember one recorded event. Probably because I made myself the star in it. It was the late 1960s and in my neighborhood adults regulary hosted dance parties. It was our night and for the first half hour or so, my younger brother and I could stay up and join the fun. I got a kid's grasshopper, put on a pair of oversized sunglasses I got at the circus (three times as big as my head), and made my way into the crowd.

Of course, it was the playback of that night that was the most fun. At five, I spontaneously live dubbed the audio that was missing. Our camera didn't record sound just video. So, I gave myself all the speaking parts to go with the video. If there had been America's Funniest Home Videos then -- I might have been able to help my parents pocket some cash.

The social hub of the home expanded from dance parties to movie night. I am pretty sure this was a rarity in the 1970s, someone with a copy of a classic black and white Flash Gordon movie. I still remember a scene where, just as Flash squares off with an enemy, a special effect kind of poofs on the screen brightly. The crudeness of the effect worked because it was surprising! The excitement of the guy who got his hand on this tape also sticks with me, years later. He brought Flash to his peeps, in person, in a basement decked out with wood paneling and shag carpet.

Keeping it in perspective, it was family and friends that breathed life into the camera, even if it was a stilted wave at times. The breakups in the family are obvious from the gaps in our recorded history. It's not until I am graduating high school that I see any new recorded memories. These are different. Too many cakes at the party because our family became our families. Both mom and dad showed up with big, impressively decorated cakes. I like cake. Little kids were dominating the scene once again. Remarried and rebirthing. My youngest sibling trying to take over the storyline, running through the adjoined rooms like a helicopter sure to crash. But he had to share the limelight with his big sister. I still delivered the one-liners as if I were trained in improv, able to react to the new era of change now recorded in a digital format.

Not long after the birth of my first child, my mother-in-law bought us a digital camcorder. I was fascinated by how I could beam a just-shot video from the camcorder to our television. When the dog walked infront of the beam the image broke up, like it did when antenna television was unreliable and the only option. What beamed to screen in our living room in 2001 was the squeals of a child and the echo of the adults who served as her laugh track. Hadley now had the limelight. For me, it was and still is all about her. The camera shows we were all there -- the star, her supporting cast and fans -- daughter, two moms, grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends. Creating our own wave.
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