I remember waking up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Back then, there was no Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon, and the single fuzzy PBS station was a little too kid-friendly in slightly creepy and condescending sort of way. I still have nightmares about that crazy Romper Room lady who insisted she could see us all in her mirror, although I’m also a bit pissed off that I never once heard her say “I see Amy.”
Sunday morning TV was a wash. We could watch Rocky and Bullwinkle and try to understand all the nudge-nudge-wink-wink humor that usually sailed over our heads, or we could try to sit through the awkward stop-action Davey & Goliath that always left me feeling vaguely uneasy.
I always wanted to be the first one awake on Saturdays so I could see shows like Clue Club and Speed Buggy before my older sisters took over the TV. My middle sister and I especially liked the live action shows; we both crushed on the little blonde boy from Sigmund the Sea Monster, and we spent hours re-enacting scenes from Isis and Shazam! We all three loved playing Bugaloos, but I always had to be the little fat firefly kid whose butt refused to light up. I never got to be the pretty princess or even Witchipoo from H.R Puffnstuff.
No, I take that back. I got to be the princess one time, and wore my favorite hand-me-down-dress with straps that tied on the shoulders. The little neighbor boy came over to play, and I remember him staring at me with buggy eyes and crooning, “You look beautiful! Will you go swimming with me?”
Ah, yes, my first date, at the ripe old age of five.
I could write volumes of blog posts about the lessons learned that day about beauty or male shallowness in the face of revealing summer clothes. But I’ll take the high road here instead and go back to my Saturday mornings.
By the time I had kids, they had access to cartoons 24/7. I always worked on Saturdays, so I usually didn’t see them until late in the afternoon on those days. I only found out recently that my older kids used to tiptoe downstairs to watch Saturday morning shows after I left for work but before their father woke up for the day. We had satellite TV, of course, but on Saturdays they turned off the satellite and watched the Saturday morning lineup on the same channels that I watched as a child.
They have the same kind of memories that I have: wrapping up in an afghan on the couch, eating endless bowls of mushy cereal and watching TV with the volume turned down low to avoid waking their parents. It didn’t matter that those same shows were available in a constant rotation on other channels during the week; Saturday morning TV has never been about the shows. It’s about watching the shows, whatever shows they are.
Nutritionists and health experts are still bemoaning Saturday morning TV with as much vigor as they did in my era. Of course kids are better off outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Of course they shouldn’t eat multiple bowls of sugar-encrusted cereal in one sitting. Everybody knows that.
But it creates a childhood memory, and isn’t that important, too?
Now, I am at my desk on a Saturday morning, catching up on my writing while I down my fourth cup of tepid coffee. My teenagers are in their rooms upstairs, either sleeping in or playing on the internet with tablets and Galaxies and X-Boxes, oh my. The Little Man spent last night with his cousin (and occasional partner in crime), and the house is shockingly, disturbingly quiet. What I wouldn’t give to hear an annoying theme song right now; I don’t care if they’re singing “Gotta catch ‘em all, gotta catch ‘em all!” or “Call me, beep me, if you wanna reach me . . .”
My nest is getting empty, but never as empty as on this quiet Saturday morning.