For her 700th episode of "Stuck in Vermont," Seven Days senior multimedia producer Eva Sollberger sits down with her mother, Sophie Quest, to talk about aging. Sollberger just turned 50; Quest will turn 90 in the spring. The two have lived together for the past seven years and are navigating this experience together. Quest used to walk four miles a day but now uses a rollator to walk one to two miles at a slower pace. She broke both of her ankles last year and caught COVID-19. The two discuss the positives and negatives of getting older, including hospital trips, declining mobility and having fewer responsibilities.
Sollberger also made videos about her mom in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, and in 2015 at Grand Isle State Park.
Sollberger spoke with Seven Days about filming the episode.
This story is close to home. Why did you choose it?
My relationship with my mother is central to my life. I moved back to Vermont from California when she turned 70 and I was 30. Her husband died suddenly, and I wanted to be closer to her.
I have featured my mom a few times in previous "Stuck in Vermont" videos. Some people may recall watching "The Deadbeat Club" on cable access, which featured my mom and my sister, Seven Days associate editor Margot Harrison. I have been so grateful for this time that we have had together, but I know it could end at any moment. Every morning when I knock on her door, I hold my breath to see if she will answer. Death comes for all of us, and we have been very lucky to have her for so long.
This is a universal experience, growing old and taking care of our loved ones. I thought other people may be able to relate to the joys and hardships of this journey.
What's it like to film such a personal story?
Most of my videos are about illuminating different pockets of this chaotic universe and searching for connections. They are often very personal to me. And I can track the past 16 years of my life through the series.
I bought my home in 2007 when the series started, thanks to getting hired full time at Seven Days. In 2009, I had an ovarian cyst removed and made a video about it. That same year, I adopted a tiger kitten while making a video at the Great Vermont Corn Maze in Danville. Lexy is 14 now and likes to eat popcorn.
In 2016, I got a concussion while filming the River of Light on the Winooski River. In 2018, I had cataract surgery and made a video about that. When I look at my list of videos, I can remember where I was at different stages of my life during each one.
I think of the "Stuck in Vermont" video series like short documentaries. I am a big fan of feature-length documentaries, like Stories We Tell and Grey Gardens, which help us understand the human condition in very intimate ways.
This episode includes a lot of footage from over the years.
For most of my videos, I film a few hours of footage from one session. This video had about six hours of footage — filmed over the span of 25 years — and a lifetime of photos that needed to be woven into a cohesive story. I was overwhelmed by 600 clips, and my first cut was two hours long. Since the invention of iPhones, I have started to document lots of everyday moments with my mom. And I tried to include a mixture of sweet, salty and embarrassing moments.
I often think of Agnès Varda's French documentary film The Gleaners and I when I am editing. You carefully extract all the tasty bits and leave the rest to rot in the field. Then you assemble all the puzzle pieces and try to make the story sing. It is a cumbersome process that takes me days and is all-consuming and disorienting.
I wish I had access to cameras when I was younger. I would love to have video of my mom practicing the flute, which she did every day of my childhood. I bought my first camera in 1999 and, since then, have proceeded to film my family nonstop.
This is like a love letter to your mom.
As I think you can tell by watching this video, my mom is my person. Being with her for this journey is an immense privilege, and, as I mention in the video, it is also slightly terrifying. Granted, none of us knows when we are going to die. But when you are approaching 90, death seems a lot closer. And after a number of hospital visits and broken bones, I am always waiting for the next crisis.
But I am grateful for every moment we have together. We both try to enjoy the small things: reading books by the lake, walking through parks and eating a fresh loaf of olive bread. We try to take it day by day.