If you’ve been saving for a bigger screen TV but haven’t quite managed it yet, this will make you feel better.
In May of 1948, General Electric (GE) advertised “the one and only kind of television you can enjoy in broad daylight.”
Their ads promoted a television with a “super-big” screen─3 square feet—and they promised clear reception of all 13 American channels.
These days “daytime television” means soap operas, inane talk shows or re-runs of sit-coms. In 1948, daytime television meant a physical TV set with an image bright enough to see during daylight hours.
We take our big screens with clear colour pictures that we can see in any light for granted. Every once in a while it’s good to pause and acknowledge with gratitude the technology behind it all, and the people in our past who harnessed that technology to create something that has become so omnipresent in our lives.
Isn’t it a shame that all that marvelous technology gets used for such frivolous, and sometimes harmful, drivel? Don’t you wonder what the great minds of our television pioneers, John Baird, Kalman Tihanyi, Leon Theremin and Philo Farnsworth would think about the potential of their technology being harnessed for such beauties as Sharknado, or Duck Dynasty, or 19 Kids and Counting, or—God help us all—Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?
I think they would throw their hands up in despair. I think that if they had known what was coming they would have drawn up legal contracts forbidding anyone with the name Kardashian from ever appearing on their screens.
I hope that they are—right now—plotting ways to come back to haunt the producers of Toddlers and Tiaras.
As I write this, my words appear on a computer monitor with a screen larger than the one in the 1948 GE advertisement. Its picture is bright and clear and colourful. I take a moment for gratitude for this incredible technology and the pioneer minds of the people who invented it.
Tonight, I think I’ll go home and kiss my big-screen television in all its bright, clear glory. And I won’t watch The Bachelorette. I respect the great minds of television pioneers far too much to do that.
When I came downstairs this morning, I gave my son a hug and said, “This is this last morning I’ll get to give a child of mine a hug.” Tomorrow he turns 18, so my “children” will both be adults.
How the heck did that happen?
The old saying, “The days go by like years, and the years go by like days” feels true to me today. Looking back, I remember some re-e-e-a-a-l-l-y lo-o-o-o-n-g days of fevers or croup or endless building of Lego houses. Now, all those days stacked up one on top of another feel like a snap of the fingers. My youngest child was 20 inches long at birth, and he fit in the crook of my arm. Now he is 6′ 4″ and I fit under his arm.
On his Adult Eve, I celebrate the man that he is, even though I hold dear the baby, the toddler, the child, the teen he was.
He was the baby who would never accept a soother or a blanket for comfort; he wanted his mother or father. He was the toddler who climbed into our bed . . . every . . . single . . . night . . . for seven years. He was the child who skipped stones, who always drew an illustrated Christmas List, and who loved to play with BeyBlades and mini-hockey sticks.
He was the teen athlete who played every sport going, but especially baseball.
On his Adult Eve, I know he feels himself all grown up and very independent. But I know better. In terms of numbers, he might be an adult, but he’ll always be a baby to me.
It was an “I need a writing prompt” kind of day.
I told myself to walk into my office, go to the second shelf of my bookcase and choose the second book from the left, page 142. The prompt brought me to The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson’s memoir of childhood.
On page 142 he writes about school experiences, specifically teachers’ monitoring of bathroom requests:
“They [teachers] insisted on knowing strange things, which I found bewildering. If you wanted to go to the restroom, they wanted to know whether you intended to do Number 1 or Number 2, a curiosity that didn’t strike me as entirely healthy. Besides, these were not terms used in our house. In our house, you either went toity or had a BM (for bowel movement), but mostly you just ‘went to the bathroom’ and made no public declaration with regard to intent. So I hadn’t the faintest idea, the first time I requested permission to go, what the teacher meant when she asked me if I was going to do number one or number two.
‘Well, I don’t know,’ I replied frankly and in a clear voice. ‘I need to do a big BM. It could be as much as a three or a four.’
I got sent to the cloakroom for that.”
This story reminded me of bathroom episodes from my own childhood school years. I remember one girl who requested permission to go to the bathroom but was denied. A short time later, a trickle of urine spilled over the rim of her red plastic chair and dribbled into a pool around her sneakers; an unfortunate incident certain to create a traumatic childhood memory. Another boy had an even more, shall we say, explosive incident while waiting for permission to do what nature calls us to do.
My own first day of school involved a bathroom incident. I was a shy child, and before I started school people wondered how I would fare away from home and my family. I didn’t start school until Grade 1—there was no kindergarten in my area at the time—so I was old enough to remember all the talk and the first day well. I remember telling myself that I was going to be just fine, thank you very much. I would show them all.
Only one problem. It was a different time and place. I had no pre-school or kindergarten, so when I started school, I didn’t know how to read. At an inevitable point in the long day, I had to go to the bathroom. I bravely asked permission and went and stood in the hall and looked at two doors. Did I mention that it was a different time and place? There were no pictures on the two doors. Signs placed there clearly read “Girls” and “Boys,” but I couldn’t read!
I stood there for some time debating what to do. I really needed to go, but what if I walked into the wrong one? I would have been mortified. Eventually I decided to try to wait it out. I returned to my classroom and sat down.
Some time later, my need became overwhelming, and tears began to roll down my face. At that exact moment, someone my family knew well walked down the hall and peeked in the classroom window. Word spread to all who knew me that I cried on my first day of school.
For want of a picture of a little girl on a bathroom door, I cried on my first day of school.
How many of us have similar childhood school bathroom memories? I’m guessing, a huge number.
I want the record to show that, other than my unfortunate overfull bladder, I was fine on my first day of school, thank you very much.