TV shows mark eras of life

Published 11:37 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It’s funny how things become part of our lives, things that mark certain times in our memories. Television shows are one of those things, at least for me.

For example, I remember Bugs Bunny or Roadrunner cartoons and I’m back to childhood Saturday mornings. I see myself in front of the television in my warm granny nightgown maybe eating a bowl of cereal. My brothers are there too and we are laughing at the coyote as he tries to catch that roadrunner.

If I think of “The Rifleman” or “Have Gun Will Travel,” I picture my family in the den eating mother’s hamburgers, which were, and still are, the best ones ever made. It’s a Saturday night and I get to stay up later, maybe even late enough to watch “X-1” or was it, “X minus 1.”

Whatever the name, it brings up a host of memories, including the time my younger brother sneaked inside to catch a glimpse of the scary show while we were all outside enjoying a cookout that lasted longer than usual. We were too young, according to our parents, to watch this forbidden program, which made it more attractive.

For years, my father told the story of my brother flying out of the house screaming as soon as the opening with a disembodied head floating around appeared on the screen.

Then I fast forward to “Laugh-In.” I was a teenager more interested in being with friends than in what was on television. Still I watched Goldie dancing in her mini skirt and laughed at what now seem like corny jokes.

I think about nights sitting up with my own babies, rocking them and watching and dozing as I tried to coax them to sleep. All in the Family, The Waltons, and Grizzly Adams are stored in my head from those days.

That brings me to LA Law and The Bill Cosby Show. I watched those as my husband and I knitted together a new family after our marriage in the late 1980s. I remember how I felt when those shows left the air, kind of like friends leaving to reappear only occasionally in reruns on some cable channel.

Now I am preparing to say farewell to another show, another marker in my memory. When ER came on, my youngest child was a toddler. Lots of nights, I watched holding her in my lap. Now she is a teenager who stays in her room listening to music while her father and I watch the show.

At the time of its premiere, I worked in a hospital and that made it all the more interesting. Even after I left that job, I kept following the storyline, getting to know characters as they entered and left show.

Tomorrow night the last episode airs and I, like millions of folks, plan to see it. I realized I had a strong attachment to ER when I vowed not to watch whatever they put on in its place because it just would not be the same. Of course I probably said that about whatever ER replaced.

But, I think I have strong feelings about this show because it came to life during some of the happiest years of my life. I’ll look back on watching ER with my husband and remember feeling contented just to be in that space and time.

Yes, it is funny the things that become part of us, attached in our memories like links in a chain. Holding that thought, I’ll store ER away beside Bugs and John Boy, remembering Dr. John Carter with a smile as I recall what was going on in my life when County General Hospital came into my living room every Thursday night at 9 p.m.