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Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Life In Stories

Wow--you guys REALLY liked the me-me-- thanks for everyone's response, it was REALLY fun to read other people's!

And now, on my 600th blog post (yup... you read that right...) I have some stories to tell you about stories.

Tonight I put together a little 'traveling birthday party' for Ladybug to take to day-care. She will be three tomorrow and we're having a party at my parents on Saturday, but we wanted her to celebrate with her peeps on the day itself, so there I was, goody bags, gift bags, and plates galore. It was late (because DUDES, I had to wait for Supernatural--and the episode ROCKED!!! They made fun of us slash writers and I LOVED it--HURT ME MORE, Kripke, it makes me happy!!) and I was watching the last episode of ER, even though I'd sort of let the series slide this year, but I'd been a faithful for more of the fifteen years than not, and as I teared up a little, suddenly it hit me.

I started watching this show the fall Big T turned one. Mate and I had watched in fascination as this new way of storytelling revolutionized our television, and we had no choice but to watch because it came after Seinfeld which came after Friends and our hearts started to beat with these people and we were pulled helplessly into their stories. Big T is big enough now to watch the show--and he did for a season or two, and OMG, as my older kids hit adulthood and the younger ones grow up, it has begun very plain that I've marked their lives through stories.

I've always defended television--we don't sit and listen to storytellers anymore, book tastes vary, but whether you watch a show or not, everyone is aware of the various electronic storytellers waiting to fill our hearts with the blood-throb of fiction when we push the button. My students who watch fiction television are always my best students--and the ones most open to what fiction gives the human experience. It's the kids who ONLY read non-fiction or who ONLY read classics who don't really get it--they see the sublime in the intellect alone and throw human experience in the white-trash garage.

So it was fitting that tonight, as I was getting ready to kiss my baby's babyhood goodbye, I thought of some landmarks that I've marked with tv--and thought I'd share.

* We used to let Big T and Chicken stay up late so we wouldn't have to have bedtime wars during Friends. Man, that show was SACRED. On the night it went off the air, Big T and Chicken sat and watched the last episode--and we all cried. Man, they grew up with that show--those grown-ups were living the life that they grew up to want. Since Mate and I have lived such small, sheltered lives, I owe Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey some of the scope of our children's dreams.

* I was alone in a big scary house watching season 2 of the X-Files while Mate worked nights at Fridays before he was out of school. Chicken (who is one day younger than Gillian Anderson's daughter Piper) was born Saturday night at 8:00 p.m, 23 hours after I went in labor. How do I know that's when I went into labor? Because the Liver-Fluke man episode played that night, and I took one look at that squidgy fucker in the porta-john, went "OHMYGODICKY!" and WENT INTO LABOR. No shit.

* When my crazy friend Wendy and I got caught in the flood of '86 because we were ass-stupid, we walked the three miles to shelter (I was barefoot--did I mention ass-stupid?) singing the soundtrack to Miami Vice. Glen Frey, thanks buddy--I'll forever and ever associate 'Smuggler's Blues' with swimming lamas and one of the stupidest things I've ever done.

* Finding Nemo was available to buy the night I gave birth to The Cave Troll. I was sitting there, knitting the world's ugliest sweater (or, I should say, sewing the crooked assed seams) and suddenly I started to get contractions that CRACKED OPEN THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE FUCKING WORLD. Every ten minutes. Now the books tell you that you're supposed to go in when those puppies get seven minutes apart. They never did. At one in the morning, Mate got out of bed and I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "To call your mother. I've had enough of this shit."

* My obsession with Batman started when I was pregnant with Big T--they showed most of the original animated series episodes at four-thirty or so in the afternoon. I had just gotten my first teaching job when I was seven months pregnant (they fired me for that. Bastards.) and Mate had to walk to work at five-fifteen. So I'd get home, be exhausted, and our half-hour together before he walked to work was watching Batman together. And to this day, I love Batman--Torrant started out as Batman, and damned if Aylan didn't introduce himself as Robin... I LOVE this story dynamic with everything in my slash-pervy, hero-worshipping soul.

And I could go on-- but it's late, and I have to go to sleep and I'm feeling the Jack & Teague dragon waking up and threatening to rip through my blood over Spring break, so I will, at the end, leave you with this.

* Three years ago to this very day, I was devoted to Gray's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. I've since stopped watching both of them--Gray's Anatomy mostly because it conflicted with Supernatural, and something had to go. But three years ago, I was devoted, and I was sitting in my chair, trying to knit, and wondering when my next contraction would hit. Would it be in five minutes? Ten? An hour? They'd been on and off for three days, and sometimes they were awful and sometimes they were mild and never, never did they continue the same pattern for more than an hour running. Well, they were five minutes apart for forty-five minutes. OMG, this was it, we were going into labor. Are you ready to go? Mmm... No. I want to watch Gray's Anatomy first. And I did. And sure enough, the contractions left off.

They started up again when the show was over, but the rhythm was off, and it wasn't until a couple of them that I was sure were going to rip the floor of the house open that I decided I'd had abso-fucking-lutely enough of this shit. I was going to the fucking hospital or I was ripping God's eyebrows off. And when the poor sleep-deprived, nicotine addicted resident who 'delivered' (the nurse actually caught' Ladybug checked my dilation and found me eight centimeters dilated, he asked me "What made you decide to finally come in?"

The answer was simple. "I'd had enough of this shit." Of course I had another contraction then, but I could have added, "And there isn't anything good on t.v."

And so it goes--George Orwell thought that proles would never save the world because the marked their life in small events--fighting at a sister's wedding, getting a girlfriend knocked up, whathaveyou. How embarrassing-- I DO mark my life in these things. They just happen to the people on the magic glowing box in the corner of the living room. And I could leave you with that thought right there--but it's not entirely accurate.

I don't remember what happened on Gray's Anatomy that night. I do remember singing to Ladybug as she sat next to me in the little isolette box--she had started to cry and I wasn't allowed to get her out yet. She stopped crying immediately and turned her head, staring at me with big blue eyes that I was suddenly convinced would STAY that way. She knew me. I was her mama. And now that she knows me in person, she knows that she can come sit on my lap anytime. We'll watch some tv together and play with her toes and she'll give me a baby and we'll make up a story. Any time. T.V. can wait.

So maybe it's all good. I seem to be marking my life by T.V.--but I'm not living it there, and that's just fine.

8 comments:

KnitTech said...

There is alot of life packed into TV shows. And you're right, I'd want to grow up and live like some of them.

Donna Lee said...

I'm aware of the shows you mentioned but haven't seen a-one of them. My memories are wrapped up in 30 Something, a show from the 80's about 30 somethings that I swear stole the dialog from my life. I never missed an episode of Angry Beavers (Nick) and I can still hear one of the girls yelling "Beavers" from downstairs where the tv sat.

As I got older and the tv slipped out of my life, I've found different touchstones. Now I have images from the audio books I'm listening to while things are happening. Like, I will always think Stephen King when I look at the Adamas shawl because I was listening to Cell when I knit it. Same thing, different medium.

Julie said...

You've inspired me to tell a baby story over on my own blog, I think.

Thanks for the memories. And the knowledge that I wasn't the only dumb teenager in the world. And while I never went into labor over an icky TV show, it's mostly because I never had the nerve to watch them. Hahahaha.

Roxie said...

There were periods of time when I didn't even own a TV, and missed alllll the shows. And, since I tip over at 8 PM, I still miss half of them. I'm culturally semiliterate.

TV shows are like watching the neighbors. You learn from their mistakes and get to vicariouly share their adventures with none of the consequences.

Galad said...

I can relate. Our lives are anchored to certain shows but we are a big TV watching family.

I'll always associate Dr. Who (the British version) with my son's infancy. It came on around 11 PM and I'd know I should go to bed but. . . Mornings really sucked the next day but it was worth it.

DecRaink said...

I so get what you mean about marking time and having memories tied into television shows. I have done the same with all my favorite shows. However I tend to do it more with favorite books.
Like thinking of the book Indian Captive always reminds me of when I lived in Ohio and vice versa. Or memories of high school are closely tied to the Anita Blake series. Books are what keep me sane and I read during everything- school, work, etc.

Bells said...

I don't get any of the big name shows anymore, mostly because I don't watch anything on commercial TV, but I do remember Friends being important, and there have been amazingly big moments that have managed to come to me because people tell me about them and I buy the DVDs. Six Feet Under, Buffy, Angel, Dexter.

I used to be one of those kids who only read the classics and i dismissed pop culture. But in amongst the drivel, there's pure gold. TV has really come of age, I think.

fingerferdig said...

I remember waiting for Lost to be sent here, we're always behind the US when it comes to american shows, and the day before the first episode was sent, my husband kicked me out. So I never watched the first season, since I moved in with my parents who didn't have that channel. Now, every time I watch Lost, my thoughts stop by my divorce for a second or two, but it's sort of a good memory anyway.

Oh, and I remember watching Gilmore Girls in the first flat I rented.

And always being tired at school on Wednesday, because of watching Friends at 10:30 pm on Tuesdays :)

Ally McBeal accompanied me through my year of drivers lessons. And summer holiday nights during junior high were spent watching Pacific Blue with my brother.

I love reading your blog!