(*I’m not a celebrity stalker, but the death of Robin Williams so close to my Mom’s makes it all raw and real and I’m moved to share…)
We moved from Ohio to Arizona in 1978 and shortly thereafter I became a “latch-key” kid. Part of the transition included my Mom going to work once we got settled into our “master-planned” suburban neighborhood. So, for about two hours every day after school, before my older sister got home, I was alone. Incidentally this is when I became a closet eater, but that’s another blog and another story. On the days I wasn’t riding my bike over to my best friend’s house to play Atari, choreograph endless dance routines, or swim in her pool, I was at home, acting brave, but really actually quite scared and alone.
But the truth is, in the midst of being alone I never felt lonely. It’s a funny thing what food and television can do to one’s mind to believe in a false sense of comfort, community, and protection.
With packages of Saltine’s in hand, along with freshly sliced rounds of cheese and copious scoops of Nestle Quik powder in my 2% milk, I would sit on our Chevron striped couch and watch “Mork and Mindy”, “Gilligan’s Island”, and “Happy Days.” And as I did, the alone-ness disappeared. Sure He-Man, Tom and Jerry, and Jonny Quest helped pass the time, but somehow Mork and his innocent wonder, Professor and his brilliant discoveries, and the Fonz and his simple-minded strength and confidence made this at-home-alone-kid feel very much protected.
It’s frightening to look back and think about how much TV I watched while unattended. It’s a wonder my brain didn’t turn to mush as my Dad always declared. I had it down to a science, knowing when to turn it off so the tube wasn’t hot to the touch when he got home from work. Though we watched TV sometimes as a family (I remember Masterpiece Theatre, NOVA, The Muppet Show, Little House, The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, and mini-series like The Thorn Birds and Shogun…), the statistics of children watching extended amounts of media isn’t from this day and age…it started way back when I was little, and yes, I did ride my bike and explore for hours on end without a care in the world, but many days, I vedged in front of the boob-tube.
I had a crush on that alien, Mork from Ork. My friends and I used to shake Na-nu Na-nu style. I mean, I actually wore rainbow suspenders, people. I didn’t love Mindy because she seemed slow to notice the treasure that was Mork right in front of her, but she eventually came around, smart cookie.
I know Mork was just one of many heart-warming characters Robin Williams played over the years (did you know the producers allowed him ad-lib time while taping because he was just that brilliantly funny to come up with stuff on the fly?), the others with lasting impact in my memory and so many of yours, too, but to an elementary school girl who was alone, trying to feel “at home” in a big empty house, his quirky innocence, hand wringing, and calls with Orson at the close of each show, honest heart-felt calls laced with authenticity, questions, curiosity, and growth, that down-to-earth alien sure helped my alone heart feel right at home.
Shazbot, Robin Williams! I’m so sad you are gone! I pray blessings over Robin and his family, healing and comfort…continued laughter. He was designed with many a gift, but one in particular that impacted much of the world was the gift of healing through laughter. What a profound and beautiful thing to know one’s gifts and walk in them! Oh, the ripple effects! Lord, thank You for making Robin Williams and introducing him to the world at the same time I have been on Earth. Lord, You know that sense of humor is something my family cherishes greatly, especially in the midst of trial and grief. What a gift his life was! What. A. Gift! Thanks, again, God! You are an AWESOME CREATOR!