For the final movie of my collegiate career, I am required to “insert” myself into the cinematic equation. My professor demands that at least ten percent of the film be autobiographical. And so, taking my cue from an old Nick at Nite sitcom, I responded, “Your wish is my command, Master.” (Sadly my professor is Italian and my I Dream of Jeannie reference was lost on him.)
Upon my return to New York, I collected family home videos documenting my life between ages 0-4, and Moses was I a hand full. Development psychologists claim, though, that a child’s personality becomes visible when he or she is a toddler, and so I have made it my goal to extract the portions of the film that properly reflect Yaffa at age 21.
I now provide you with the highlights of my digitization experiment:
1. My love of journalism. Like any good Jewish parent, my father aspired to raise a leading intellectual. As a result of this aspiration, he would repeatedly place The New York Times on my high chair during breakfast time. When I wasn’t spitting up KIX cereal or throwing my Lieben’s chocolate yogurt at the camera, I would spread the newspaper wide and smile. Journalism– even if was composed of words beyond my toddler understanding– was fascinating stuff.
2. My refusal to ever quit. Upon my first birthday, my great aunts and uncles presented me with several boxes of lady-like attire. When the boxes were placed before me, I set about opening them. My mother asked that no one assist me in this endeavor, and sure enough, after a few minutes of scratching, clawing, and tearing at the cardboard, I still had failed to open the presents. I look distressed at first, but then my frustration gave into determination and I employed a new technique: biting the box with my budding teeth. I succeeded and floral dresses abounded.
3. I am never going to be a hairstylist. The two most memorable hair styles I sported were the blonde mohawk at age 1 and the Billy Cyrus mullet at age 2. Seriously, my hair was long in all the wrong places. And my mother wonders why I am willing to cough off so much of
my her money for a decent haircut these days.
4. I have a love for random trivia. As Andy announced at my Passover seder, I should be on Jeopardy because I have an affinity for random bits of historical and pop-cultural trivia. I was the only girl in my first grade class who knew the only American president to never wed was James Buchanan (the bachelor who preceded Lincoln). And while in diapers my parents sat me down in front of Jeopardy on a nightly basis to prime me for my eventual appearance on the show. The best subtitle in the whole film is beneath an image of me holding a remote: “Alex, I’ll take Toys ‘r’ Us for 100.”
5. I have a love of all things caloric– and particularly fried. Many of the highlights of my home videos are shots of me consuming my body weight in fried dough at a Native American Fair; strawberry shortcake at my first birthday party; a potato latke during my second Chanukah. Yes, even as a toddler I appreciated food. And while I occasionally ate a banana, my mother managed to juxtapose those banana moments with images of monkeys at the Bronx Zoo– subsequently drawing a parallel between babies and animals: a lack of self control regarding anything edible.
And with that I conclude my trip down memory land in my parents’ humble Queens abode.