life without a boob-tube...

You must know that our family did not own a television, a T.V., or--as my dad affectionally call it--"a boob tube".  When I was younger, I knew very little about boobs or tubes.  As I got older, I wondered why my conservative, fundamental Baptist dad introduced me to such a "vivid word picture" at such an early age.  No bother, I now know what each of those things are and enjoy them immensely.  It was a foretaste of glory divine or as it's called in writing, foreshadowing.

Because of this boobtubeless existence, we read a lot of books.  My parents would plop us on their knees and read with ardent passion and dramatic fashion, complete with varied voice inflections, dramatic pauses, and a change of tone and tempo based on what character they were acting out.  It wasn't just reading books, it was entering the story and reliving the plot with vicarious joy.  I wouldn't give up a television-less environment now if you offered me a personal IMAX addition on the back of our house.  It bred into us a vivid imagination along with an affinity to transcending story.

We also had a little record player that would play vinyl records at different speeds.  There were a host of children's books with an accompanying record that could be played in the place of "flamboyant" parents, offering you sound effects and a narrator to supplement the picture book, adding a depth and breadth to the experience that "put you there".  My brother and I would sit in the hall next to the most exposed outlet, forging through books like a snowplow.  Like most children, we would enjoy them more the 15th time than the 14th, and so on.  As you can surmise, we memorized these stories so much so that we could sit down with books on our parents lap and just rattle of the whole thing without stuttering.  They thought we were amazing children, luminaries with hefty IQ's, prodigies of our time.  Really, we weren't that smart at all, we just didn't have a Television to eat our brains like caviare.  Not watching T.V. can make even stupid people seem really intelligent...something about the vegetative influence of amusement or something.

I was a year and half younger than Tim and I would love correcting him when he would mess up in his retelling of the story.  We have recordings of those early years and it's so funny hearing me interject little words that he would be forgetting from the record.  I was the annoying little brother who wanted to steal the thunder and make a splash whenever I could squeeze my way into the limelight.  All that to say, reading was the primary way of passing the time in those early years.  Bible stories, characters from history that were inspiring, and classic Disney animations that taught things like honesty, integrity and masculinity through fantasy.  

The one that stuck out the me the most was The Fox and the Hound.  I remember popping the vinyl onto the turn table, setting the speed correctly so everyone didn't sound like chipmunks and the music didn't sound oriental, and leaning against the wall with the book in hand leafing through the color pages taking in the animated renderings like a dry and thirsty sponge.  That's what a heart is at that age, you know.  A dry, thirsty sponge.

My brother wouldn't sit with me through this story.  He would cry when things would get a little dicey and the Fox and Hound had to part ways.  Because he knew the story, he would leave when it would take a turn toward tension and suspense.  This is when I would wake up.  We were so different in that way.  I liked action and adventure, he was more drawn to security and surety.  He would go upstairs until he would hear the song at the end of the story and then he would come back down and reenter society.  

It seemed like every story had some crisis or climax within it that would cause Tim to exit stage left, the Three little Pigs and the scary wolf, Pinocchio and the mean guy who turned little boys into donkeys, or the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.  There wasn't a story, Biblical or otherwise, that didn't have tension, because as I came to learn in adulthood, anybody's story is chuck-full of crap.  Crap is part of our story, like it or not, and it's the really good stories where someone overcomes the crap and finds life.

I didn't know it then, but sitting there leaning against the fading wallpaper in entry way, I was learning that stories can't be good unless they are filled with a harrowing experiences that call out the hero in us to rise up and fight for good.  A truth that I'm grappling with even today.


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