We moved out of the red house when I was 4 and a half, yet I have
technicolor memories from that time. Most vivid are the backyard (complete
with apple tree), breakfasts (my dad and I once woke up hours before
everyone else and he filled little drinking cups with Hershey's syrup, Karo
syrup and crushed nuts of some sort and we dipped bananas into them and
called it breakfast) and TV. My mom was a full-time mom and every day at
exactly 12 noon we had nap time. There was no flexibility about the hour and
I don't think she really cared whether we slept, so long as she was
left alone in the living room for an hour to watch "her show" in peace.
Her show was, is, "Days of Our Lives." I think she saw the first episode and
I'm reasonably certain she saw it yesterday. She's devoted; and it wasn't
until recently that I realized her devotion to the show was probably more about the ritual of it
than the events on the screen. She had that hour of complete reign over the
one television in the house and a block of pure solitude. Soon we had all
chosen an hour of television as "ours" -- an hour when no one else could
change the channel and we would be left alone with our self-selected TV
friends. My show was "Bewitched." That beautiful, conflicted Samantha.
Dutiful Darren. And, oh, Tabitha! If only I could have been Tabitha. The world was hers with a twitch of her nose!
My little sister's show was "Mister Rodgers' Neighborhood," but we try not to
My older brother's show was "Star Trek." I loved all the campy sci-fi on TV
at that time, most of it in syndication and running daily on our rinky-dink
local station. I got in trouble every week for watching "Lost in Space"
when I should have been dressing for church, or "Land of the Lost" when I
was supposed to be cleaning my room. And later on, I was addicted to "Buck
Rogers," "Battlestar Gallactica" and anything on Science Fiction Theater. But
I always hated "Star Trek." Even as a kid, it never sat right. It wasn't camp
and it wasn't sci-fi, and I couldn't bear to be in the room while he had it
on. Bloated Jim Kirk making out with buxom aliens or running around in some
mock-western oh-no-we're-stuck-on-earth-in-the-20th-century scenario. But
still, it was his chosen show and I had nothing to say about it, which was,
after all, the point.
A year after we moved to our new house, the Hartleys moved a few doors
down. The Hartleys watched "All My Children," and soon I was watching it with
them. Of course, it meant being at their house every day at noon, because
on our TV was "Days of Our Lives." And so I became a 6-year-old soap addict.
"All My Children" became my show and I watched it religiously until well into
my 20s. In the summer, my friends and I would leave the pool only long
enough to see Cliff and Nina sneaking around behind the evil Palmer's back.
In high school, we skipped class to see Greg and Jenny get married. It was easy to schedule "All My Children" into my break between classes
in college and then for a couple of years afterward I had a job close
enough to home that I could enjoy the dual benefit of leaving work to go
home for lunch AND watching "All My Children."
It was at that time that I began to understand the value of an hour alone
with made-up people with made-up problems that have nothing to do with you.
The job close to home was a dead end. My husband turned out to be an
honest-to-God politician. My life was not at all that I'd had in mind, and
to sit quietly alone in the middle of the day was a habit of my mother's
that became quite useful to me.
I gave up "All My Children" in the last couple of years, along with the job,
the husband, the hometown. I've started watching "Star Trek: Deep Space
Nine." Much to my amazement, it's the first of the Star Trek franchise to
feel like sci-fi to me. I had dismissed "The Next Generation" as too much
like the original and "Voyager"
as even more so. It wasn't until I was forced recently (by my otherwise
perfect boyfriend) to watch an episode of "The Next Generation" that I
finally realized what had always bugged me about "Star Trek" and its non-"Deep
Space" successors. The hair, the makeup, the story lines -- they're soap
operas in outer space. They're big-haired melodrama hiding behind a sci-fi
facade, doing justice to neither genre. But "Deep Space Nine," well, it's my