Christmas in 1982… by Al Norton

Al is the author of Al Norton’s Two Tivos to Paradise, my real estate agent, and most importantly, my friend and one of my favorite personalities on social media. This morning he posted a memory snapshot that was so lovely, I made him turn it into 5 paragraphs and let me publish it. Merry Christmas, friends!

In 1982, I was 11 years old… and I had my own TV. Kids of today watching a relatively new blockbuster movie on a handheld supercomputer that also makes phone calls may not find this impressive, but this was an enviable, shocking possession for a little kid in the ‘80s. Dad acquiesced to my obsession with television early on and created chores so I could earn the $100 I needed to buy it from my stepmother’s friend. It was a “portable” (like, with a handle on the top to carry it), the red model with a black and white screen hardly bigger than a lunchbox. It was all mine and I loved it. I lugged it back and forth between houses on the T every two weeks, following custody agreements of the day. I wish there was a picture of that 11 year old carrying a TV on the D Line.

Having my own TV wasn’t enough; I really wanted my own VCR. But they weren’t a thing yet. So I did what I did when making mix-tapes from my collection of 45s: I put my tape recorder up against the speaker of the TV and recorded my favorite episodes, and then I’d listen to them as I fell asleep at night. The one I remember best is the first ‘Dear Dad’ episode of M*A*S*H, which took place at Christmas time. At one point in the story, Hawkeye’s plans go awry and he sings “…if only in my dreams.”

I was driving my kids home from dinner last night when a lovely version of that song (Josh Groban) came on, and when he got to that line, I was 11 again in my childhood bedroom. I could hear that tape and the familiar but forgotten hum of a black-and-white TV, and I felt warm and secure and far away from all the stresses that come with adulthood. I could swear Mom and my stepfather were stringing popcorn and cranberries together in the living room. The smells and sounds of the season are powerful. Though I frequently entertain a fantasy of seeing Mom again, it’s always with the knowledge that she’s going to die before I turn 24. But in this more seasonal, nostalgic sort of time travel, I’m merely 11 again, with no awareness of the world to come, only the joy of family, the anticipation of Christmas, and… my very own TV.

And then I blinked, the light changed, and I was back on the highway, using the rest of the trip home to explain to the twins why ‘John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together’ is the one true holiday album/special. Maybe someday they’ll be in the car with their own kids, hear John Denver and Rowlf singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and remember this drive home. Maybe, someday.

I hope that you all are feeling similar spirits of the season, reliving old memories, and making new ones. I love my family. I love Christmas. I love television.


Television, ’80s style


2 responses

  1. It was relaxing to read presented here your friend’s reflections involving “love of family, Christmas and television”. This piece was also PC (politically correct) written what is worth of noticing in our AOC (age of consumerism).
    But it is not enough for me as I feel that you and Al can write together, or separately, a second part/continuation that will be more rebellious in the NWO (new world order) ideology promoting easy acting people – without deeper concerns about their destinies/religions/morality etc.
    11 year old children are not only very smart, but also not too deeply indoctrinated by many current political/economical/social … influences and their views/opinions/projections/reflections about surrounding them problems can be very interesting for many readers.
    In the Al’s case, the issue of parents’ divorce seems to be extremely traumatic. He is not able to deny it because in the key motive of having very own TV at the age of 11 combined with a memory of the favorite show and song he is not able to ‘forget/neglect’ existence of the parents’ barbaric (no matter how nice was their post-marriage agreement) divorce.
    I assume that the same topic of divorce so artificially placed into the ‘story of own TV at the age of 11’ cached your attention as also facing your very own divorce story with children.
    I also had divorced parents at similar age and it definitely deformed my personality development. It is a long story involving religion, social responses and many other aspects that were ‘boiling’ in my young head, and it is still strongly present in my mind.
    My ability to express it well/clearly are definitely limited (English is my second language and my education is technical – not humanistic) in comparison to your or Al. It is why I look forward for your and Al’s eventual considering a deeper development of this topic.

    I think that it will be worth of including in such reflections also some religious aspects that are now almost entirely eliminated in ‘modern divorces’ focused today more on sounding cool rhetoric behind the custody agreements for the victimized kids instead of considering integrity/honesty/self-discipline/morality etc. etc of divorcing parents?

  2. Wonderful story! Smells and sounds do trigger the brain and bring us back to a time when they also had a special meaning. Thanks for sharing!

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