Archive for category: Fairly Odd Parents-Past

The Day Before the Day After

31 Dec 2001
December 31, 2001

New Year’s Eve, 1972: it was one of those, uh, lonely New Year’s Eves. No hot date and no hot party to go to. I was alone. So how to make the best out of it?

horoscopeDad and his wife, Vera, were vacationing in Hawaii (sounds like they were “jetsetters” but this was an anomoly—they never traveled much). And they were returning at 11:59 PM, 29 years ago tonight! I decided to surprise them and meet their plane at the airport! Well, at least it gave me something to do.

I always liked to surprise my father, afterall, he had liked to surprise me as a child. But, for some reason, he never reacted as if he were surprised whenever I tried. Back then I didn’t know when to stop.

So, I got in my car and drove the 20 miles to LAX. Let’s see United, 11:59 from Hawaii. That shouldn’t be hard to find. I got to the gate about 30 minutes early and waited and watched for telltale signs of the upcoming bewitching hour. But nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

The plane pulled up to the gate five minutes early and I watched with anticipation as passengers disembarked. Waiting to surprise your father and stepmother on New Year’s Eve. Sigh. I was digging deep.

The last passenger exited and not a sign of them. At midnight, one of the check-in people at the next gate yelled “Happy New Year” into his mic. With no one to hug I reached out to the nearest woman and kissed her! Egads! I kissed a stranger at LAX while waiting for my dad on New Year’s Eve! She was surprised but I was even more surprised! Where did that come from?!

I waited around for a while but they never appeared. Since they didn’t know I was coming I figured they’d just find their car and go home. So I left. The next morning I called and my Dad answered the phone. Home safe and sound. And, yes, they’d arrived right on schedule.

Turns out they were coming in from Kauai, not Honolulu. The funny thing is that both planes pulled up about 3 gates from each other at about the same time. We were like strangers passing in the night!

So, tonight, as I reflect on my present plans to bring in the new year (a quiet evening with my wife and two children sharing our living room with our close friends and their children) I think how lucky I am to have a hot date at a hot party.

An Anniversary of Motherly Proportions

29 Nov 2001
November 29, 2001

horoscope of November 29thToday is the 30th anniversary of my mother’s death. It’s amazing to think it’s been that long and I’m now older than she ever was. I often think about how Mom would feel if she suddenly came back and saw how life had changed during her absence.

She’d wonder what that “TV” was doing on my (and everyone else’s) desk. When I’d tell her what I do with it and that my daughters have never heard of a typewriter she’d be amazed. The early days of television were to her as wonderous as the early days of the net were to me. She’d be proud of me but wonder what the hell a web designer was! And she’d be shocked I have a cat instead of a dog!

Mom would be surprised our civilization hasn’t evolved much since her time. Pearl Harbor, Joe Macarthy’s Communist witch hunt, and JFK were important cultural milestones for her generation. We have the Persian Gulf War and now this.

Oh, she’d wonder how I got from LA to DC and be happy I’d really become an artist (she knew I was going to art school). She’d take credit for my inheriting those genes. While it would take some time for her to adjust to my (I like to think) more evolved sense of self, sly sense of humor, and sense of the world around me, she’d understand how those things made their way into my art. I was just beginning to stand up for myself and speak my mind in 1971.

She’d love my wife and children. I think she would get the most pleasure out of knowing them and their relationships with her would ease the shock of the new. Children haven’t changed much. Young, bountiful energy that allows adults to see the world in an entirely different way is still possible and exciting. They’d show her around! Yeah, she’d stick close to home for the first few weeks. That’s for sure.

I remember the night she died. It was a long illness. Very long. While I was sad, I also saw her imminent death as a relief for all of us. I laid in bed, alone that night, wondering if it was over. I’m not sure I ever really got a chance to say goodbye.

And we’d get to talk about those last few years. I’d be able to tell her how awful it was to not be able to acknowledge and share her final illness with her. It was a different time. Both her doctor and my father had decided it was best not to tell her she was dying (they were afraid she’d commit suicide if she knew —that’s pretty ironic!).

Leaving her that warm early January morning to return to school in the snowy Midwest was probably the hardest day of my life. I’d only found out about her illness a few weeks before and my father was adamant that I return to school as if everything was normal. Being given six months to live is not a long time and I thought I’d never see her again. Our goodbye was anything but normal to me.

This was much harder than that night she died 2 1/2 years later. But I’m convinced she knew near the end. She had just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary but decided not to wait around for her birthday two weeks later. She was the one who decided to stop all procedures to prolong her life. We just never spoke about any of it. And I regret that.

And now, after all this time, others will join me in sharing November 29th as the anniversary of the passing of someone special. This is a day to remember.

Finding the Needle in a Televised Haystack

03 Jul 2001
July 3, 2001

I found it! The episode of the television show It Could Be You my mother was on in the 50s. I’ve been combing the NBC Master Broadcast Reports at the Library of Congress since March. Every other Monday I’d go there on my day off and look through transcripts of the show on microfilm. It was a daunting task and required every methodical brain cell I had to systematically scroll through each year. Ultimately, though, I relied on vague memories of how old I might have been and when in the year it might have aired.

horoscopeI remembered being in the 2nd grade. I also remembered I was home sick when the spies from my mother’s women’s club came over to gather information on my mother’s life. So, perhaps it was in the fall or winter. But, of course, there would have been a lag between the spying and the eventual airing of the show. That’s all I had to go on and my recollections could be totally inaccurate.

After initially focusing on the microfilm reels containing the shows the Library of Congress actually had kinescopes of (kinescopes being pre-videotape film taken directly from the television screen), I decided I’d better look at every episode I came across, just to be sure I wasn’t missing it. The library’s kinescope holdings are spotty and even if they didn’t have it, I’d wanted to find the transcript of my mother’s national TV debut.

There were a couple of episodes missing on the microfilm archives (with notes indicating their absence). I scrutinized the music permissions list for tunes that might indicate the missing segment might be about “first dates” or “how a couple met” (the subject of my mother’s story). I noted these dates, hoping that my mother’s was not one of the missing.

Every transcript started with an outline of each show, with a list of guests. This made it easier for me to scan without having to read through each page. After all these months I had started to fantasize what it would be like to find my mother’s name. Yet, I tried to keep my excitement in check. This was, after all, a needle in the haystack search. And I had nothing but a few memories to go on.

So when I saw her name on the December 12, 1956 list I was shocked. You know, that momentary, disconcerted feeling you get when your heart moves to catch up with your eyes. The adrenaline was on its way when I remembered to take a breath and make sure my eyes were not deceiving me (I had had a couple of false alarms during the 3 month search). My first thought was that my search was over and I wouldn’t have to fear the nausea-inducing microfilm reader again! But I also wanted to savior the victory of the search!

I sat there for a good minute before I read the segment. Then I carefully read every word. Now that both of my parents are gone, this will make an amazing “memento” of their lives.

Sadly, this episode was not one of the kinescopes the library had. So when I got home I began calling television archives around the country to see if I could locate the actual filmed show. I spoke with the archivist at the UCLA Film and Television Archive and even the archivist at the Game Show Network. But the chances of finding my parents nationally televised kiss aren’t good. The only visual record I have is this photograph. While this was a network show, it wasn’t I Love Lucy. And most were probably destroyed long before the 50s became the Golden Age of TV.

Father’s Day: My Present

17 Jun 2001
June 17, 2001

horoscopeMy wife turned over in bed and said “Happy Father’s Day, honey! Would you like breakfast in bed?” “No thanks,” I replied. “But some early morning ‘p and q’ [peace and quiet] would really be nice.” One of my most favorite times in the day is early, early morning, before the kids get up. I often wait for the newspaper to be delivered at 5:30 am just to sit and read, uninterrupted for 30 minutes before getting ready for work. My quiet time is worth so much to me I gladly go to bed at the ungodly hour of 9:30 or 10 just to exercise this morning pleasure.

Father’s Day 2001 was off to a great start. A day when I could do just about anything I wanted with little or no guilt. I read. Read the Post and the NY Times. All in glorious solitude.

I built. Ok, constructed a pre-fab IKEA bookcase for my new office downstairs. I moved. Moved my books from my old office (which had been doubling as my daughter’s bedroom for sometime) to my new one. I cleaned and threw out. Threw out piles of ancient notes, articles, and outdated computer books. This is most difficult for me, throwing out books. I would never have done that in the pre-digital age. Perfectly good-looking books. I kept them so much beyond their usefulness I don’t think I could find a place to even donate them to. How-to’s on Illustrator 4 (aren’t they up to version 10 now?), Photoshop 3, and long extinct applications like MacWrite.

When my eldest daughter woke up she couldn’t wait to give me the card Mom had bought for her and her sister. Now, just a word about cards. We don’t believe in them. Well, not the store-bought $2.95 a shot kind. Hand made are great. But who wants to spend all that money on a greeting even your grandparents would find inappropriate and sappy. Who writes these things? When forced to, we’re lucky enough to be right around the block from the Factory Card Outlet, where every card is 49 cents! Once every three months we stock up.

My wife had warned me about her extravagance but said she’d actually found one at the CVS Drugstore that was so perfect it was worth the extra cost. And, indeed, it was.

Next on the agenda was my daughter’s tap dance recital. Twenty-nine classes had their 2 minute turns at glory. Bedecked in sequins and frill, purple, canary yellow, and shocking pink, each class did their dance. The three-year olds were cutest. And every so often you saw the arm of an assistant just off stage, mirroring the moves the little ones were to make. And once in a while a child just stood there frozen in angst, looking out at the multitudes of parents, grandparents, and friends cheering her and her fellow dancers on.

Of course, my daughter was wonderful!

I wasn’t allow to video the performance. You have to buy the school’s professionally made tape. And the program was much too long. But in that darkened auditorium I reflected on the meanings of this ritual for my daughter and of the father’s day rituals of my childhood. Darkened auditoriums are often petri dishes for my mind.

It occurred to me that, since my father’s death last Fall, I was now the patriarch of the family. Oh, not in the “ruler of my domain” sense. Afterall, this was the 21st century and I was a child of the 60s. Nevertheless, I was the eldest man now. My sister’s husband had died a few years back so I could see the possibility that this might have meaning to her children, even though they’re in their twenties. I didn’t know what to make of this at all. What responsibilities does the role mandate? Does age equal wisdom? Not necessarily when you look at the history of my upbringing.

When we got home there was a voicemail from my sister, wishing me a happy dad’s day. I know this day’s hard for her, thinking about her husband and dad. I immediately returned her call. When I got her answering machine I told her I had been thinking about her and about the discovery of my newly found patriarchy. But, I told her, this patriarchy would be filled with fun and happiness. Yes! Happiness was the legacy I’d like to bring to the job!

Meeting My Past Once Again

07 Apr 2001
April 7, 2001

horoscopeLast week two boxes of family artifacts arrived unceremoniously from my father’s wife. I had half been expecting something as my sister had called a few days earlier to say she’d received a package of Dad’s coffee mugs in the mail. We laughed at that. Neither of us had rated these cups on our respective lists of important memories. We both realized how beholden we were to a woman who, while sharing 27 years of our father’s history with us, did so with apprehension. It was she who now filtered our history for us. I was hoping my bar mitzvah photographs were included in the shipment. I valued these above all else my father held over the years. They had been number one on my list.

About 15 years ago I’d asked him for these images and he swiftly declined. His refusal was strong and immediate. On the one hand, I was glad Dad felt so strongly about keeping them. He could be sentimental, but mostly he shared those feelings with no one. But as he grew older and as we grew apart, more and more I felt the desire to gather and protect these aspects of our lives.

When I was 24 and my father married my stepmother he sold our house, the home I grew up in, without ever asking us if we wanted anything from it. Many of my own possessions, let alone things from our family, were thrown away or sold. I was afraid that might happen again.

My wife called me at work to tell me of the boxes’ arrival. I got home early in hopes that I might have some time alone to go through them before the children and chaos returned. When I saw that powder blue padded photo album I felt a sense of relief. I could now protect these memories.

I hadn’t seen these images in years. I remembered them but, seeing them before me now, I was able to view them filtered by recent events and recollections. And things had changed since my last viewing. I had my own family now. And I was older.

Even the most mundane photographs become important when enough time has passed. These images were almost 40 years old. Certainly each held critical importance to me. It was my coming of age and my family. Yet time might also elevate their interest to others as icons of a history growing more distant. Where these two interests intersected might prove fruitful ground for some art.

In addition, I had been focused recently on the rituals of our family, such as they were. I was primarily interested in our familial interactions. These photographs signified a great deal, simulacra, if you will, of relationships, illness, happiness and sadness. I was reading a lot into these pictures as I turned the pages of that album in solitude. The mixture of quiet and memory gave my emotions a chance to surface.

I looked further into the box to see what other feelings it held. There was an envelope with my name written on it in my stepmother’s handwriting. This was the extent of our communication. Inside was a runaway note and a will I had written when I was about 10. I suddenly laughed so loud it startled me, my reaction being so different from just moments before. I can’t remember the exact circumstances of these documents. I don’t think they were related to each other. I was glad my father chose to save them.

There was my mother’s birth certificate, my birth certificate, my parents’ marriage licence and even the receipt for its payment. There was my father’s teaching credential from the 1950s along with his first teaching contract (Dad had loved teaching but couldn’t make a living on what they paid so he went to work for Lockheed). I continued to dig through the boxes. A pocket watch. It looked old but whose was it and what memories did it hold?

The second box contained the tie my father wore at my wedding and a sweater he wore at a photography exhibition I had had in L.A. a few years ago. Did my stepmother know I attached meaning to these things? It’s hard to tell. The tie was one of many ambiguous ones she sent. Along side were various golf trophies, most in a state of disrepair. And, of course, some of his coffee mugs.

Looking for a Needle with My Head Between My Knees

26 Mar 2001
March 26, 2001

horoscopeGot up early and took the Metro to the Library of Congress today to start looking for my mother’s episode of It Could Be You. The Reference Librarian pulled the microfiche rolls of NBC’s master scheduling list for the dates they had. Each roll contains 3 or 4 days worth of daily schedules, timed program scripts plus transcripts for each show.

I was amazed to be viewing this history. Transcripts of early Today show episodes with Dave Garroway and company reveal a great slice into that time. I was less amazed by the effect scrolling a microfilm reader has on my stomach. Watching pages and pages zoom by at a fast pace can get to you after a while.

When the librarian discovered I would have to go through multiple rolls she said “Oh no! Your task is daunting!” I knew it would take some time but couldn’t quite understand her reaction. After a couple of hours I had to put my head between my knees and take numerous breaks. As I packed up for the day I sheepishly asked her if anyone ever complained of nausea. “All the time,” she stated. That’s why I said your task would be daunting.” I guess I will have to research this in short spurts.

It Could Be You aired nationally from 1956 until 1961. One of the reference books on the subject says the first show was in June 1956 but we found a copy from April. I have no idea when her program aired so I had to try and recall anything that might help pinpoint my search. I remember that my mother’s club acted as “spies” for the program, gathering information they could use to highlight her life.

I was sick and home from school one day when her friends (the spies) came over for coffee. The local tax assessor was due to come to the house to reassess my parents’ property tax. I don’t know when they stopped doing this. Today it would be a bureaucratic nightmare to have individual agents come to each house to check on new purchases, but that’s what they did back then. My mother’s friends were told not to tell the assessor about our new lamp. Of course, that made it on national television, much to her chagrin. Was my mother a Reality TV pioneer?!

How my parents met was also part of the show. On their first date, they exchanged walnuts with their names written on each. I remember the real nuts were disintegrating and were only being held together with rubber bands. She received a pair of candle holders with nut replicants encased in plastic as one of her parting gifts.

So, I was about 7 or 8 at the time. Since I was sick, perhaps it was Fall or Winter. Maybe it was March. I’m having a hard time separating facts and memories from wishful thinking.

The Library of Congress doesn’t have every episode but does have just about every master schedule. So, even though they may not have my mother’s I am hoping to, at least, find her transcript. Reading others is intriguing and gives some insight into contemporary television’s “evolution” for finding the best hook to gain market share. Take a look at this transcript from one of the shows (the names and important dates have been changed to protect their anonymity).

© 2001-2015 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074