Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It Took Thirty-five Years to Check It Off the To-Do List


In September 1980 I was getting ready to start college at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The dorms opened on September 21 with classes starting a few days later.

In early September I was wrapping up my summer job at a day care center in San Mateo. I helped take care of the younger children who ranged in age from  5 months to 2. (The 3-and-up group were in a different room with different caretakers.)

The hours were pretty good for a teenager who usually liked to sleep until noon: I worked from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week while living at my grandmother's home about a mile and a half away. She still lived in the house where Pop grew up. We called her Yia-Yia, the Greek word for grandmother.

Yia-Yia was 82 in 1980 and my aunt and uncle (Pop's sister and brother-in-law) had recently moved in with her. I'm not sure why except that maybe it was decided she was too old to live alone? Meanwhile my aunt was still working in San Francisco and my uncle was long retired.

My aunt was 56, only a few years older than I am now, and my uncle was 67. He was one of those people who always seemed old, even in his 40s and 50s, so at 67 he seemed positively elderly to me. He was completely set in his ways and not to be crossed. He was mostly kind to me but unfortunately he was not always kind to Yia-Yia and my aunt.

He had extremely good hearing and kept the television at the lowest possible volume. HE could hear it fine (as could I) but my grandmother and my aunt were hard of hearing. My uncle refused to turn up the volume. (In hindsight I realize I should have told my Pop, who may have been able to do something even though he lived in Louisiana at the time, but I was so young that I never realized I could have tried to make a difference.)

So with my first paycheck from the daycare center I bought myself a television! It was a 13" set in black & white as I couldn't afford a color TV! It also had a single earphone jack so I could watch at whatever volume I wanted in my bedroom. Without the earphone I would not have been able to use it because of my uncle's supersonic hearing.

I don't think I watched much TV overall --- it was summer rerun time --- but I did start watching a "Masterpiece Theatre" series called "Lillie".


LILLIE (REISSUE) The show had originally aired in 1978. It was a 13-part series about Lillie Langtry, famous in the late 1800s for her beauty and her role as the Prince of Wales' first official mistress (he later became King Edward VII). Lillie was played by Francesca Annis from age 15 in 1868 to her death in 1929.

The poet, playwright and writer Oscar Wilde was a featured character and this series introduced me to him. I read almost all of his works in the next few years thanks to this TV show.

The final episode was to air on September 21, my first day at college. I figured I would get to watch it that night on my little black & white TV in my dorm room.

It turned out I had no roommate. I had a double room and over the summer I had received a letter naming my future dorm mate. Her name was Kim and she got a letter stating I would be her roommate. For whatever reason she was placed on a different hall with a different roommate and I had the room to myself for the first several days.

Meanwhile, Lady Chardonnay was in the room next door to mine (we would become best friends within the next couple of weeks). She made friends that first week with a girl who wanted to change rooms --- I can't remember why. Didn't like her roommate? --- and she ended up as my roommate for the rest of the year.

But that first night I was alone. I turned on my TV at 9 p.m. so I could watch the final episode of "Lillie" and discovered that the PBS station did not come in on my TV (there was no cable TV at college in the 1980s!). So I never got to see the final episode.

I have actually had the DVD set of "Lillie" for several years but have never made time to watch it. Lately, as part of one of my many projects, I have been going over my old calendars and noticed that I had written the episode numbers each Sunday on the 1980 calendar. I only got to episode 12!

So this week I made the time and binge-watched the whole series including, finally, the final episode. In it Lillie moves through the last 30 years of her life and it actually ends with her dying. Cheery!

I told CPA Boy that maybe it was a good thing I didn't see it on the first night of college, all alone in my dorm room, because I would have been too depressed to get up the next day!

There are two other programs where I never saw the final episodes. The original "Poldark" on "Masterpiece Theatre" from the mid-1970s and a 1980s show called "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd". My younger brother K2 needed to record an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" so the final episode of "Poldark" didn't get recorded because they overlapped. (I think I was recording at my parents' house because it was available on their cable lineup but not mine.) And, as we all know, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" faded into obscurity and was never heard of again. Guh.

As for the final episode of "Molly" we moved during the weekend it aired in 1991. In those days you cancelled the cable at your old place on Friday and reconnected at the new place on Monday or Tuesday. "Molly" aired on Saturdays. C'est la vie. 

I have the "Poldark" DVDs and they are next on my list. But Molly will probably never come to DVD or streaming. It featured quite a bit of music, especially Motown, and I think the rights are cost prohibitive. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad!





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