Nov. 15, 2008
Telling it Like it Was
While my mother was still alive, I’d always listen with great interest as she often recounted life before us, her kids. I’m a lover of history and hearing her tell about life decades before I was a “gleam in my daddy’s eye” (as she so often put it) was a delight for me. She began to repeat herself toward the end of her life, but I’m relatively sure that was all the meds she had to take. Suffice it to say her tales of a depression-era childhood and then womanhood amid a world war and changing mores kept me enthralled. I never tired of listening.
I found myself channeling her the other day. My eldest, now in her mid-twenties, loves it when I recount incidents and experiences of my childhood and the years before I had kids. I find myself wondering why on earth she might be interested in such things, but I only have to remember how important it was to me that my mother tell me all she could. As though we were still part of an oral tradition from some lost tribe.
And in fact, that’s exactly what it is.
Just as ancient tribes kept rituals, laws, secrets alive through word of mouth, so we do the same thing today. We think of oral records as some anthropologic discovery of man’s activities. Yet, we do the very same thing.
How many times have you said to yourself…”gosh I must write that down before I forget”? I have done it all my life and the few times I remembered to translate it to paper, I was very glad to have done so. Some of my mother’s best recipes are gone with her because of my lack of initiative to write them down. My palette is sorry.
We were talking about watching TV in this high tech time and being able to stop or pause, rewind, etc, with the way things are now. I had to laugh and began to recount how my family would pick a show we all wanted to see (Ed Sullivan springs to mind) and we’d plan to watch it together.
First, my mother would make sure the tea water was boiled for her and my dad. My dad would be adjusting the antennae for all he was worth, moving them here and there, trying a bit of this direction and that. He’d fuss until my mother admonished him lovingly and he’d come sit down with us. The popcorn would have already been popped (pan, oil, hot flame,….remember?) and the glasses of soda poured (a huge and rare treat in our house)
We’d meet back at the sofa, like the Simpsons, awaiting the start of the show.
My mother would always take the phone off the hook and put it under the chair cushion in the phone nook. My kid laughed at that, asking me why she didn’t just unplug it and couldn’t believe it when I told her the plastic jacks hadn’t been invented yet. The phone cord was hardwired into the wall. If we didn’t want the phone disturbing our show, my mother buried it so that we couldn’t hear that sped-up dial tone that signified it was off the hook.
Commercials were a time for pee-breaks and snack runs. Anyone from that era can likely still do a bathroom run and get fresh soda in under a minute. It’s like riding a bike…you never forget.
Those were some of the best times we had as a family. We were together and enjoying the company.
As my eldest and I sat watching a movie together, pausing when we needed something, I began to understand that not all things change. Yes, they may seem a little different, but all in all, what the commercials used to give us, the pause button now accommodates.
I’m glad she likes hearing my stories and that she’ll have her own to tell someday.
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