Please don’t throw me into that briar patch
In 1966, my family went to Washington, D.C. to celebrate Thanksgiving. Washington was chosen because my father’s younger sister and my older sister both lived in the area. Because there were lots of children in my family, sleeping arrangements for the kids were parceled out between my aunt’s house in Arlington and my sister’s apartment in Alexandria. Since I was the youngest and didn’t have any cousins my own age, I was selected to sleep on my sister’s couch.
On the Friday night after Thanksgiving, everyone had a big evening planned, except for me. The adults were going to a night club, and my older brothers and sisters were going out on the town with their cousins of the same age. Eventually it was decided that I was just old enough to be left alone in my sister’s apartment for the evening to watch TV. The prospect of spending an evening watching TV was a special treat for me, because not only did we not have a televison at home, but my sister had a color TV in her apartment.
As it turns out, Friday night in the Fall of 1966 was my all time favorite for watching TV. (Normally watched on the grainy black and white set at my grandfather’s house, next door in my hometown of Mt. Olive, NC.) Starting at 7:00 p.m. and continuing until 11:00 p.m., I could choose from among Batman; The Green Hornet; Tarzan; The Wild, Wild West; Hogan’s Heroes; The Time Tunnel; The Man From Uncle; Laredo; and Twelve O’Clock High. All of these shows were pretty much specifically designed to appeal to twelve-year-old boys. When I found out that I was going to be left alone with a color TV for an entire Friday night to watch whatever my heart desired, I was nearly delirious with joy. However, knowing the Puritan sensibilities of my parents toward earthly pleasures, I was careful not to express my excitement openly for fear that they would re-think their plans.
My coy attitude toward being left alone was successful. My parents, my aunt, and my sister made only one change in their plans for me. They felt so bad about leaving me home, while everyone else was going out on the town, that they made sure that I had enough soft drinks, potato chips, and other snacks and candies to feed an army of twelve-year-old boys. Normally, I had no access to the forbidden fruit of junk food because it was too expensive and–in my parents’ opinion–was bad for a growing child.
The only drawback to the entire evening was that my sister’s husband had told me that the apartment across the hall was rented by a bunch of airline stewardesses and that they might be coming and going at all hours of the night. Each time a commercial came on TV, I raced to the door and peered through the peep hole hoping to catch a glimpse of a glamorous stewardess, but none appeared. I guess they were all out of town that night.
Notwithstanding the lack of stewardesses, I don’t think I have ever spent a more glorious evening of visual and culinary gluttony in my entire life. And to top it all off, I had the twelve-year-old’s pleasure of everyone feeling sorry for me because I got left behind while they all went out and had fun.
Upon hearing this story for the first time many years later, one of my other sisters, Mary, remarked, “And I’m sure you sapped it for all it was worth, you little scrub!”