“What’s the first thing you remember?
I don’t know, I’ve forgotten it.
No I mean what’s the first thing you remember after all of the things you’ve forgotten?” —Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
This is one of my all-time -favorite- puzzlers. It’s great to pull out at parties when everyone is waxing introspective or telling old stories. Think about how you would answer.
….well, while you’re thinking, I’ll tell you mine:
Noel’s first memory:
The power-knob on my parents’ old Zenith television.
That’s right, not “button” or “remote switch”–power-knob.
It had ridges all around it, like the edge of a quarter, though it wasn’t perfectly round.
Three tiny colored circles–red, blue, and green, were etched onto the plate above the knob, right under the word “Zenith” and the dials that adjusted the channel settings. I would touch them too, thinking they reminded me of buttons in cartoons.
“If you wake up and come into the living room before your mother or I do, you may turn the knob -this- way, and watch tv.” My dad showed me just how to turn it and bring the old zenith to life. Then, he let me try turning on the tv for myself (to show him, I suppose, that I wouldn’t pull the set down on top of me). Each night before my parents went to bed he would set the dial to PBS.
I remember a morning, or what would be many a morning, stepping out of bed, tip-toeing into the living room, and standing in front of that knob. It turned on…a twist to the left, then a loud “POP!” followed by the sizzly static sound of a tv warming up.
I heard the sound of voices before the image appeared. One, two, three seconds or maybe longer depending on the weather. Then the voices became faces–Mr Rogers and his neighbors. Big Bird, Oscar, Gordon, Susan, Luis, and Maria. LeVar Burton and a theme song that said books could take me anywhere or let me be anything. 3-2-1 Contact and the -original- Bloodhound Gang solving math and science mysteries.
Don’t misunderstand me. I had plenty of blocks and puzzles, picture books and coloring books and even an awesome picture-dictionary with clever illustrations and definitions.
(quick aside: I will always remember the definition of “admit”, and how it meant TWO THINGS! One could “admit someone to a backyard circus” or “admit to pouring water on the cat”. The picture illustrated a kid pouring water onto a cat.)
I had my imagination, an uber-rural countryside for a backyard, various pets, and two amazing, ubiquitous parents.
Still, I find it fantastic that the very first thing that I remember is something that brought power to an electronic device. Yet, in a broader sense, it was one of the first and best gifts that my parents ever gave to me–empowering -me- to seek out entertainment yes, but also knowledge.
“Mama, what’s a grant?”
“Daddy, what is the…National Science Foundation?”
“How does the tv -work-?” (and then of course, I learned why those red, blue, and green circles were etched on the panel)
“I can count to ten, and then I’ll count to ten in SPANISH!”
“Plants go through a process called ‘Photosynthesis.'”
In a time before instantaneous mass communication and information retrieval, television was a talkative little redheaded girl’s magical gateway to the world beyond Big Cane, Louisiana. It was PBS in the mornings, the weather report at noon, “specials” in the evenings, and always, sitting beside one or both of my parents quietly sharing something with them just as they read to me before bedtime…
…and then the next morning, I would wake, turn the knob, hear that POP!, and start the journey once more.
And thus, I suppose, so begins this journey. Like Mr Rogers, I’ll ask you to be my neighbor and come along with me!
I’m not quite sure yet where exactly I am going. I know I’m one of eleventy billion others in my age demographic who dig the same things that I do, and have blog pontification with a proper side of irony down to a science.
I can promise a lot of improper comma use and run-on sentences. I go off on more tangents than a calculus textbook. I’m clumsy off of the blocks.
But I love a good story, and I have a few to tell. I love being passionate about the Theatre, Books, Film, and Television(of COURSE!) that tell those good stories, and I’d love to share my thoughts with you. I love History, so let’s hop into the Way-Back Machine sometime. I’d even love nifty suggestions!
I ask that you play nicely though–leave inappropriate comments and I will delete and ignore them–no tracking mud through THIS living room!
And if you bring your own crayons…try not to grind them into the carpet.
That’s about it for my first entry, I suppose. I think I’ll go for a walk around the lakes now. It’s too pretty a day to spend all of it in front of the tv 😉