Saturday Mornings Ain't What They Used To Be
by Michele Christopher
Last week I was in Best Buy killing time while my kids spent gift cards when I spotted the box set for Wacky Races. Must have it! Penelope Pitstop! Dick Dastardly!
I stood there for a minute holding the box and thinking - did I really want this? Or was a little tug of war between nostalgia and memory going on in my brain?
Was this show really that good? Did I enjoy it enough to spend thirty dollars on it? Or was that silly surge of joy I felt when I saw the box more about a memory of sitting in front of the tv on a Saturday morning, eating sugared cereal and watching cartoons for hours than the actually enjoyment of the show itself?
I got sad for a second as I realized that you can't replicate your childhood with a DVD box set, not even if you had a bowl of Quisp cereal and some superhero pajamas.
Nostalgia v. Memory is why so many bad movies appear on our list of favorites; who really thinks that Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is great stuff? Only someone who had a good time watching that movie. It's why I love songs like "Sister Christian" and "Don't Stop Believing." The nostalgia associated with them makes me react in a positive way to some really cheesy songs. It's why I still read Archie comics and why I get so hyped up talking about old arcade games.
I have a whole slew of things in my house that were bought primarily for the way they make me feel. That has to be it, because not one of these things has held up over the years. They are songs and movies and video games I put on and five minutes into them think, why the hell am I so nostalgic for this shit? Then it hits me. Yea, that night we went to see Last House on the Left was the kind of night that gets talked about at high school reunions 25 years later. It wasn't the movie that made the night good. It was everything we do before, during and after the movie. Hell, I barely remember anything about this flick except for the dick biting incident. But there it sits on my DVD shelf amid honored titles like Lord of the Rings and Empire Strikes Back, as if it earned a right to be there.
There's my Grateful Dead collection, now hidden away in a bin in the garage. I actually went through the trouble of downloading all these albums and burning them onto discs and labeling them as if I really was interested in listening to them. I guess I got the urge one night after watching some Grateful Dead documentary on tv. "Oh yea, Sugar Magnolia! Ripple! Those songs were awesome, man!"
After a listen or two I came to the conclusion that the song were not awesome at all (no offense Deadheads), but the year or so spent smoking bongs and wearing groovy clothes and tripping so hard at concerts I swore Jesus was dancing with me was where the awesomeness was. Not in Friend of the Devil. Definitely not in Truckin'. Yea, the music makes me smile and makes me almost wistful for a time when I was a free of responsibility (and morals) teenager, but it does not make me wistful for the voice of Jerry Garcia.
Then there's my Atari Anthology collection. And the Namco Museum collection. And all those other "get off my lawn" game packages.
Maybe playing Missile Command til my fingers were numb was a lot of fun. Or maybe it was the combination of playing the game, the friends I was with, whatever I was drinking, whatever bar we were in.....you can't sit in your living room on a Saturday afternoon with your kids fighting in the kitchen, the cat throwing up in the hallway and six piles of laundry waiting to be done and get that same feeling you got back when you stuffed quarters into the machine at at the local pub while your friends handed you shots of Jagermeister. Not even if my kids handed me shots of Jagermeister.
The same thing with watching cartoons. Flintstones, Wacky Races, Hong Kong Phooey. They all make me smile for a couple of minutes while I remember how cool it was to spend a morning with a bowl of sugar and my animated friends. And then the reality sets in. Those shows sucked.
Nostalgia has a way of making your memories a lot better than the real thing.
It happens to all of us.Even now, my kids will stumble upon an episode of the original Power Rangers and be mesmerized as if they were really enjoying the show, when they are just reveling in the memories of kicking the shit out of their friends while pretending to be the Green Ranger. My 17 year old daughter watches Barney once in a while just because it reminds her of, and I quote here, "when things were simple."
There's nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with holding up a DVD set of Wacky Races, knowing it sucks but knowing that just having the box sitting on your shelf will make you stop and smile once in a while. Nothing wrong with preserving some nostalgia in one package, even if that package cost me thirty dollars plus a box of Quisp.
I know what I'm doing Saturday morning.
Michele just bought a box of Kaboom cereal from Amazon, even though she knows it tastes like cardboard (but is fortified with nine essential memories!)