There’s a lot of drama out there right now. I’m not talking about the skits put on by the kids at Day Care for Grandparents Day. This is real drama. Human hardship. Some people are struggling with a crisis they never imagined in a million years. No one knows how it will all play out.
When I was a kid there was a lot of drama in our home. It came in the form of soap operas. Mama sat at her sewing machine for hours on end. Her sewing room used to be my bedroom. When my grandmother, who lived with us, passed on, I got moved down to the other end of the house. My bedroom got converted into Sewing Central.
Mama was not just piddling at sewing. She made money at it. Enough to buy a plane ticket to go see Elvis in Hawaii with Inez Daniel.
She had bolts of material stacked all over the place. A waist high cutting table where my twin bunk beds used to be. Cabinets of thread and seam tape and tubing for pillow edges and buttons and zippers. She had a little red pin cushion in the shape of a tomato with a hundred needles stabbed into it. It always sat on the corner of her sewing desk.
That room had a window that used to look out onto the back porch. The porch got closed in to enlarge the den. So the glass was taken out. Her Singer was in front of that window, which gave her a view to the TV in the den. She sewed all day long. A nylon tape measure hanging around her neck. A thimble permanently attached to one finger. The Soaps playing on the TV.
“I don’t really watch them,” she would say. “I just have it on for company.”
My wife says the same thing about the episodes of Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie that have played so many times that Paw and Little Joe seem like family.
In the summer, when school was out and I was constantly wandering in and out of the house, I got where I could tell which Soap was on by the theme music being played. As The World Turns was her favorite.
No one on earth ever had as much drama in their lives as the Hughes family. Poor things. Bob had been told by his doctor that he had three months to live. But that was two years ago. Jim and Susan are invited to come over for supper, and Bob is nervous that Julia, his wife, will find out about his love affair with Susan. Julia and Susan are best of friends. He pretends everything is normal. Their eyes meet. No one notices.
On top of that, Susan has a brother in jail that she has never told anyone about. Word is that he just got out. He could be on his way home. How is she going to explain things if he shows up? Jim overhears Susan on the phone in the other room talking to the lawyer, and he’s thinking, “No low-life brother is going to ruin our family.”
A knock at the door. Bob opens the door. Everyone is expecting the low-life brother. But no. It’s Herman, the patriarch of the family who disappeared in a yachting accident. A body was found, but it couldn’t be identified. He was presumed dead. In reality he hit his head on a rock and has been living on some island with amnesia for the last three years.
“Oh Daddy!” Everyone is celebrating. In the excitement, no one remembers to close the front door, and in walks low-life brother. The camera zooms in. Stunned faces on everyone. Everyone except low-life bother.
This could go on forever. Just change outfits and names and you’ve got General Hospital. Or, my personal favorite, Days of Our Lives.
BK, before kids, when we were living in Cartersville, Beth was teaching 4th grade and VCRs were the thing, she would record Days of Our Lives. We’d make supper and sit in front of the coffee table to find out if Patch and Kayla were ever going to get together. I watched that stupid show for a couple years and they always almost got together, but never got past his past and never got over her inability to trust him because of all the lies. One of them would always be in the next room and overhear things they weren’t meant to hear; or find notes they weren’t supposed to find; or die and come back as an evil twin.
David Canary was the ultimate Soap evil twin on All My Children. You might know him as Candy from Bonanza. By now you’re probably thinking that I’m a sick man who sits in front of a TV all day and watches Soap Operas. Not hardly. I only mention David because I got to meet him a few times. We went to church with his folks back in the day. He would come to town during holidays, and we would visit.
What I learned is that he was not an evil twin. He was actually a very nice guy. Normal by most standards of decency. All the drama on TV was scripted. That’s right. It’s not real. No one has that much personal tragedy in their lives. Shock!
One evening, Mama got on the phone with Nell Driskel. They were talking about somebody being in the hospital. The conversation got serious. Then, they talked about someone else on trial for murder. Then another woman who found out that her son was not really her son at all, but someone else’s child.
When she got off the phone, Dad asked her. “Who in the Sam Hill are you talking about?” I always wondered who Sam was. He got mentioned a lot at our house.
“Nobody. We’re just talking about our stories.”
And that’s just what they were. Stories.
You and I both know it’s possible to get so wrapped up in the drama that it becomes hard to distinguish between the real and the imagined. My grandfather watched wrestling on the black and white screen religiously. He was the only man I ever knew who thought that wrestling was real and the moon landing was fake.
Our crisis over this virus is real. I get that. But honestly, I’m a little weary of all the drama played out on the 24 hour news these days. It’s almost Soap Opraish to some extent. And to some extent I blame the over blown drama for some of the crazy panic and hording going on all around us.
If I were an elderly wise old gentleman, I would say to all my children: Take it slow. Don’t overreact. Keep your family safe. But don’t become a butt-head. Enjoy your coffee longer. Let joy find you and not fear. Make the most of every day you have with those whom you love. Cherish the luxury of home life in a world that has been trying to cheat you out of it for far too long. When we get back to normal, and I believe we will, all this will be just a story in our past. Some of it tragic, but still just part of living.
If only I were elderly or wise, that’s what I’d say. But I’m neither.