The Legend of Ball Under Table

The above is a screenshot from a video on my phone that’s come to be known in my family as “Ball Under Table.”

Recorded shortly before the first COVID lockdown, the video documents a little game our (at the time) freshly minted one-year-old created. He would roll the little squishy soccer ball under our table, wait for me to get down and reach to get it, then waddle off into another room.

It was his way of trying to sneak off, which, having just learned to walk at that point, he was doing a lot. The video ends with me having “caught” him in the living room and asked, “Are you sneaky?” After a pause, he smiles mischievously and sets off again.

Run it back

Now three years old, he loves to watch this video over and over again, along with the many other videos of him from birth to present. It has become so indelible that he’ll recreate it in the exact same spot. (Though his wobbly toddling has turned into straight-up sprinting.) And if his mother or I dare to veer from an exact reenactment of the video, he’s none too happy about it.

It’s interesting how this moment has morphed over time. When it happened, he was too young for it to make a long-term impression. But once he was old enough to watch and rewatch the recording, that’s what became his default understanding and memory of that moment.

Which is a phenomenon I understand well, having watched and rewatched a lot of my own home videos from when I was a kid. How many of those moments would I actually remember if they’d never been recorded? Not a lot, given my woefully weak capacity for long-term memories that aren’t useless bits of trivia.

He’ll have just as much (if not more) footage of his childhood as I did, thanks to our smartphones and camcorder. And he’ll have to deal with far more screens and reality-distorting technology in general. How will that affect his mind and those of his generation?

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