Movies were a luxury. Going out in general, as a family, was uncommon. Except on pay days. When my dad got paid at the end of the month, we would go to Pizza Hut or play putt-putt golf. But that never bothered me, because all the rest of the month, we had family TV night.
My mom would fire up the air popper, filling the butter tray to the brim. My brothers and I sat staring, waiting, for the kernels to magically explode and dance in the chamber and come floating into the bowl. The solid slices of butter would change from solid to golden liquid. It never seemed like it was going to be enough to cover every fluffy white piece of popped corn, but as my mom drizzled it around the bowl, tossing it over and over, sprinkling it with salt, amazingly it was perfect. Stacks of napkins were needed. And a fresh cold glass of lemonade to wash it down.
Before band and football games, before dates or school plays, we all found our seats snuggled on the couch, overflowing to side chairs, covered in blankets, dressed in our pajamas every Friday night. The one night I could count on my dad to be home, not distracted by phone calls or emergencies. My mom would put off grading papers until Saturday and Sunday and all chores could wait until the morning. Those were our few hours together, watching Knight Rider and The A-Team, trying to guess how they would solve the crimes, overcome all obstacles. Mom and Dad could catch up with our lives during the commercials, ask direct questions indirectly, while we were too distracted by the colorful music and intense advertising to guard our answers.
Bedtime conversations hung on the unexpected, “Wasn’t that cool when…” or “I totally didn’t know…” and then a kiss goodnight. I would dream about riding around in that K.I.T.T car or being rescued by Templeton “Faceman” Peck. But always, joined by my family. It was better than any movie night.
I’m sad that my children don’t get the same experience. There just isn’t the same type of family programing. Today’s shows model reality in overly dramatic ways, sensationalizing life. Sitcoms riddled with arrogant and insolent teenagers raised by stupid parents, a far cry from The Huxtable Family or Family Ties. There are no more cartoonish comedic dramas or mysteries to solve, only reality TV shows or dramas featuring pregnant teens and drama queens. Sunday nights have become our only family TV night. Extreme Home Makeover is our favorite, teaching our children the importance of helping others.
But I miss the hour or two of fantasy and fiction. I miss getting to escape once a week, snuggled on the couch, eating buttery, salted popcorn.
“I pity the fool.”