It wasn’t about the presents… it was about presence.
Despite work and their own commitments, my parents were involved in our lives. They always encouraged my brothers and me to strive for success and gave us as many tools to do that as possible. Sometimes that meant the right equipment or training, but more often it meant giving of themselves. As an example, when we moved to a new town and there were few opportunities for us to stay active, my dad worked to install a baseball field, helped coordinate Little League with nearby towns and coached. My parents have never been ones to shy away from a challenge if it meant making our lives better.
While my dad spent a lot of time working to build up his construction business, my mom handled things at home. When she wasn’t taking care of his bookkeeping, she was preparing complete home-cooked meals. One day it would be homemade bread and bean soup, another day casserole with tater tots on top. Please tell me I’m not the only child who considered that a perfect meal. Dinnertime was a big deal because it was one of the few times we all sat down to bond.
Sundays were my favorite day for dinner. Every once in a while we could convince my dad to let us wheel the TV from their bedroom into the kitchen and watch something together. Whether we flipped over to watch Sixty Minutes on CBS or The Wonderful World of Disney on ABC didn’t matter. We all loved our fancy TV dinners. I know, I know. That’s not what is meant by “TV Dinner.” I was much older before I realized what they REALLY were!
I don’t know how, but over the years we found time to watch so many quality shows. Maybe it’s because when we had time to sit down and watch TV, we flipped between the three available channels and picked something. Yes, three channels. Unless you count PBS… which I obviously don’t since all it offered at the time was Sesame Street and stuff I had no interest in watching.
As I reflect on those years, I have realized there were some pretty great shows with fantastic writing and incredible casts. I recently spent a lot of time racking my brain trying to remember the shows I watched because, sadly, my memory isn’t what it used to be. A little crowdsourcing on Facebook and I had a lovely list of all the things my brain had forgotten! If you were a kid of the 70’s, these were some of the shows you probably watched through the years:
Mid-late 70’s TV Shows
Muppets, Welcome Back Kotter, M*A*S*H, Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, Good Times, All in the Family, Sanford and Son
Late 70’s-early 80’s TV Shows
Happy Days, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, CHiPs, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Charlie’s Angels, The Incredible Hulk, Quincy M.E., Eight is Enough, Diff’rent Strokes
Early-mid 80’s TV Shows
Facts of Life, Dukes of Hazzard, Greatest American Hero, Magnum P.I., A*Team, Webster, A.L.F.
My Facebook friends had a whole lot more but typing it all up makes it look like I spent my entire childhood in front of a television which couldn’t be further from the truth. Because back then, shows like this were only on during prime time. The later part of prime time was bedtime and before prime time was the news. The rest of the day included nothing but game shows (yay!) and soap operas (bleh. All that mushy stuff was just icky.)
Fast forward a (cough) few years…
Now that I have a family of my own, we make time to watch TV together. In addition to regular game nights, family viewing is a wonderful way to bond and create opportunities for dialogue. Sometimes we’ll watch something like Bonanza or The Andy Griffith Show and other times Gotham or Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Just as I did when I was their age, it isn’t uncommon for the kids to ask if we can watch TV while eating dinner. Unlike my childhood, we have more choices than simply 3 (or 4) channels to choose from. In actuality, with the DVR and Netflix we are able to select a show of our choosing and stream it when we’re ready.
And the choices are endless. We can watch a documentary or a sitcom. A drama or an action show. Something real or something imagined. Something conservative or something cutting edge. The one consistent is that we select shows that will appeal to the entire family and create a conversation that will extend beyond the screen. We don’t mind shows that are controversial because they often lead to the best discussions.
What I just learned recently is that Netflix has started filming reboots of some of the most push-the-envelope shows that I grew up with. The first to roll out will be Norman Lear’s show, One Day at a Time. What I found interesting is that they’re utilizing the same script but with a new family. If you go back and watch any of his shows such as All in the Family, Good Times and The Jeffersons, you’ll recognize how controversial they were at the time – and in some cases, still cause heated discussions now. The reality is that the issues they experienced then are still relevant… and they make for great viewing.
Our meals, TV and schedules are far different than when I was a kid, but our family viewing habits, including shows, have come full circle.
I couldn’t be happier because it reminds me of my wonderful childhood and gives me hope that my kids will look back as fondly as I have.