Totems From My Childhood

Tfp_aus_vhsDear Boys and Girls,

I am going to try to describe something that might be really hard for you to understand, given the world of instant gratification that you’ve grown up in. For most of your sweet young lives, you’ve been able to watch pretty much any movie or TV show that caught your fancy at any given moment. Through the gentle push of a remote control button, you have access today to an endless number of channels geared towards young’uns, programs recorded on your parents’ DVR or plucked from the Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and all the other magic apps that appear on your flat screen television.

Even way back in the dark ages of the early 1990s, when there were exactly three cable channels geared towards kids (Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel), my children also had an impressive VHS library of shows to choose from and could watch Bambi or Thomas the Tank Engine when the kids shows on our PBS station signed off for the day in late afternoon (I refused to let them watch the stuff on cable back then. #ohhowthemightyhavefallen).

When I was growing up amongst the Mayan ruins of the Triassic period (just go with it), way back in the early 1970s, there were zero cable channels dedicated to kids as there was no cable and we mostly had to get our fill early in the morning during the week and for a few precious hours Saturday mornings (can you imagine?). Other than that, we had to make do with reruns from 20 years earlier (like The Andy Griffith Show and My Three Sons) or old movies.

Of course, it wasn’t until later, like in the 1980s, that we could record shows on VCRs (but honestly, who could ever really figure out how to do that?). So when a show came on TV that you really enjoyed you savored that shizz. It was really, really special.

I remember my mom letting me stay up, a rarity, to watch The Wizard of Oz which only came on once a year (maybe Easter or Thanksgiving?). That was great until that part where Dorothy’s house is caught up in the tornado and Miss Gulch rides by on her bike and then turns into the witch and practically gave 6yo me a heart attack. Christmas specials, like Rudolph and Charlie Brown, only came on once a year and I can’t tell you how many times I’d seen bits and pieces of movies — like Yours Mine and Ours and Charade — but never the full thing from beginning to end. It all depended on when I found it on my TV dial.

And then there were television specials of my youth that aired once or twice and then disappeared like the Carnation Breakfast Bars and Chocodiles of long ago.

This all brings me to earlier this week when a conversation with my 14yo son reminded me of one of my most beloved TV specials from the 1970s: the muppet version of The Frog Prince. I was such a lame little girl that I’d have given anything to be the beautiful Princess Melora, even if I would have to talk wackbards. And I’m pretty sure we had the album at one point because I still know all the words to the songs and a lot of the dialogue.

How do I know this? Because before my son even knew what hit him, I had him trapped on the couch with the laptop resting on our legs watching The Frog Prince on YouTube. He resisted at first, telling me he was no longer into muppets, but I turned on some hardcore pressure.

“This is everything you need to know about me,” I told him, pointing to Kermit the Frog floating in a pond on the computer screen. “Seriously,” I said, pulling him way too close for his liking, “this is the most important TV show of my life.”

And, because he is a really nice boy and was probably tired from his basketball game earlier that day, he snuggled in and watched all 50 minutes with me — songs, corny jokes and all. Not to mention me singing along.

It just made me happy to share that important totem from my childhood and now am just wondering how I can pull off the same stunt with Free to Be, You and Me. I’ll have to catch him off guard again.

Please write with any suggestions and of course, let me know what your favorite shows from childhood were in the comment section below because that kid’s not going to college for another five years and I could really use some other reasons to make him sit a snuggle with me and stop looking at his phone (which you’re probably doing now, too.

Your friend,


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16 thoughts on “Totems From My Childhood

  1. OMG…where do I begin…Star Trek and Lost in Space, Green Acres, Petty Coat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan’s Heros, Get Smart, I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, I Love Lucy, Leave It To Beaver (always annoying), The Brady Bunch (of course!), The Partridge Family (David Cassidy was my first concert in sixth grade with my crush Doug Borden and his family at the then Garden State Arts Center), Love American Style (in that order on Friday nights), Wonderama, Romper Room, Davy and Goliath (the only thing on other than the station ID at 6am on Sunday mornings). Then later MASH, Love Boat, Saturday Night Live, Chiller Theater, Creature Features. Of course the 4:30 Movie on Channel 11 or 9?? with the original Shark Week, Elvis Week, Beach Party Week–Annette Funicello and Franky Avalon…etc…I’m pretty sure I never went outside…Imagine if i remembered math and science the same way??? Thanks Amy…loved the trip down memory lane! Enjoy watching with your son..he may die just from the bad acting and set design….BTW, did you hear from TEDx? xo

    • Lisa! Now THAT was a satisfying walk down memory lane. You pretty much summed up the first dozen years of my life. I’m pretty sure I never went outside either and also wonder if I might have become a little smarter if I read half as much as I watched TV. Love seeing your name here and feeling the Cozmeena love … xo

    • OMG, my eternal struggle was if I’d rather be pretty like Mary or spunky like Laura. Well, maybe if I found him a bonnet that had … wait … what am I thinking? There is no way I could ever sucker even him into that. But I do have daughters … 😉

  2. How I envy your memory! I cannot even recall what books I read last year, never mind during my childhood, although sometimes OLD memories surface quick than new ones.
    It’s true that as we get older, our memory gets tired too and prefers the uncomplicated events of long, long ago, like you said, “during the ice age” or something like that.
    I was telling my husband the other day, that our children will never know what it is to go to a movie theater and watch hours of insane comedies, cartoons, and main features that needed to be “rewound” by the operator after 1 reel had finished, and many things like that (black phones that needed an operator to establish communication, or with round dials that we had to wind up, with NO area codes or even letters on your home number. Or even worse, No phones at all because the lines had not been laid. It’s amazing what has been invented in the las 75 years! (yes, I am THAT old)

    • Paddy I feel the same way!! My children can’t even believe I was able to grow up with no computers or Internet or cell phones. Imagine what will blow our grandchildrens’ minds? It’s amazing but maybe not always all for the better, is it? I wouldn’t mind going back to a time when everyone wasn’t sitting around staring at little screens in their hands. Sigh. Thanks for the lovely memories … xo

  3. loved this! nothing better than a carnation breakfast bar – i recently made my kids sit through dave & goliath – and ZOOM of course– Family Affair & Courtship of Eddie’s Father – classics :))

    • FAMILY AFFAIR. ZOOM. COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER. OMG. Classics, all loved. I mean, I still know the ZOOM address: Write Zoom (Z Double-O M) Box 350, Boston, Mass 02134 … send it to Zoom!!!). Oh, and my mom always kinda pushed Davey & Goliath on us but now I remember it fondly. Thanks for the memories … xo

    • Yes. Yes. And yes. Loved them all, knew every single episode. Makes me wonder if I ever went outside to play when I was a kid. Thanks for reading and sharing … xo

  4. In our 80’s heydey, my siblings and I managed to record almost the start-to-finish versions of a few tv movies. Standouts are “Smoky Mountain Christmas” featuring Dolly Parton and the wonderful John Ritter, and of course Flight of the navigator. To this day, I remember the dialogue of the commercials- who could be bothered to pause the vcr on each commercial break? I also always loved watching the Miss America pageants over and over and studying the different dresses (this is clearly the reason I send you such stunning bedazzled Stitch Fix looks).

    • Somehow, Smoky Mountain Christmas passed me by. But by the 80’s I was in high school and probably too busy looking for cigarettes to filch and smoke out my bedroom window. No time for Dolly Parton back then. And I clearly remember one summer spent in my neighbor Nikki’s basement pretending to be Miss America contestants but I was more focused on the talent portion rather than what we would be wearing which is probably why I need Stitch Fix to keep me from looking like I have been literally bedazzled, 80’s style. 😉

  5. So many great shows. Here are a few more classics. Emergency, Adam-12, Baretta, CHiPs, Barney Miller, Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, Welcome Back, Kotter.

    • Ha! A lot of boy shows there: Adam 12, Emergency, Baretta. I mean, I’d watch them if there was nothing else on. But Happy Days, Mork and Mindy and Kotter were the stuff my childhood was made of. Thanks for sharing!!

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