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Ken Magill

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Hopefully, You Can Still Avoid This Huge Mistake


By Ken Magill

I made a terrible mistake in 2004 and just learned of it this weekend. And while I can’t fix what I did—or failed to do in this case—I can hopefully help others avoid doing the same thing.

[Warning: No marketing in this column.]

We got a call on Friday from Walmart saying they had a DVD of a home movie of ours that had been there for a year.

Clearly, we had dropped some film off to be converted and then promptly forgot about it.

When my wife brought the DVD home, its title was “Early Steps, House.”

“Let me guess,” my wife said. “It’s of [our son’s] early steps at the house.”

The house is how we refer to a country home we have in the Catskills where we use to spend weekends when we lived in Manhattan. We still own it, but since we live in the country full time now, we don’t need to spend weekends there. It’s being rented.

However, the weekends we spent there with our infant and then toddler son were magical.

Turned out the DVD was of a succession of weekends in the summer of 2004 when our son was 14 and 15 months old.

Indeed, it was a film of some of his early steps at the house. We could tell it was over a period of weeks by seeing my wife’s tomato plants grow significantly larger every time the camera was turned off then on again.

We also decided we should rename the tape “What’s the parrot say? and How big are you?”

The tape was essentially a full hour of one or both of us following our son around weekend after weekend asking him “What’s the parrot say?” and “How big are you?”

Except one fleeting moment.

In that moment I turned the camera away from my son for probably no more than one second to show that Grandma—my mother—was visiting that weekend.

Then I turned the camera back to my filming obsession, my son.

That was the last weekend I saw my mother alive. She would die in a car accident some months later.

What’s worse, this isn’t the only time I made this mistake. There is a Christmas video I took of my son opening gifts where you can hear the disembodied voice of his other Grandmother, my wife’s mother.

You can hear her, but you never see her. And the reason you don’t see her is I was entirely focused on filming my son opening his gifts. My wife’s mother, too, is now dead.

If only I had panned that camera to the right.

So here is my advice to you: Get everyone on film no matter whether they object or not.

Get yourself on film, as well. You’re always going to be too fat or too whatever it is you think you are to be filmed so get over it. Your kids don’t care. They don’t just want pictures and film of their younger selves. Someday, they’re going to want to remember you and other members of your family.

Don’t make the mistake I did. Get them all on film, including yourself, and don’t put it off. You never know when the last time you see someone will be.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2013-01-04 14:01:40
Subject: Thanks, Michele

Tell the husband it's not about him:)
Posted by: Michele
Date: 2013-01-02 16:30:27
Subject: Amen

Hi Ken - So sorry about your loss. I couldn't agree with you more. I look back at our pictures and especially our video and it is all about the children with the occasional sighting of me, my husband or a grandparent. I've tried to make more of an effort since I'm the primary photographer, but getting my husband to agree has been challenging. I don't want my kids wishing they had more pictures of us with them when we are gone. And I want them to remember their grandparents and great-grandparents. We totally missed getting any pictures at Thanksgiving this year and I was upset. You never know when you want be able to do it again next year. Best, Michele