When I was twenty, I had my own TV show. This was many many years ago, practically the 18th century, but TV had already been invented. It was live; it was black and white; and I was on it.
This was just before PBS came on the scene, when states had their own educational channels. My mother, a Catalan housewife with a university education, fresh from four years in the jungles of Ecuador, had been recruited to teach Spanish to the school children of Alabama, on the educational TV channel. She was forty-two at the time, had never owned a TV set before coming to the U.S., and had just had her second child. At sixteen, I saw nothing unusual in any of this. She was a mother, after all, and supposed to cope with stuff.
My turn came four years later, when I was in college. My mother\’s school-year programs were such a success that the TV station wanted to add something different–a summer course in Conversational Spanish for a general audience. But there was a problem: in the summer, my father was on the faculty of a music camp in North Carolina, and my mother and my baby sister went with him.
Forty years later, it still rankles with me that, while my buddies where whooping it up in the dorms, discussing Sartre and listening to Bob Dylan, I had to go back to my parents\’ house every afternoon, to babysit, hang diapers on the line, wash dishes, and make myself generally useful. When I begged to live on campus my father said \”What is wrong with this family that you want to live away from us?\”
One afternoon I came back from campus to find my mother reclining on her bed. \”I have some important news for you,\” she said solemnly.
\”You\’re not…pregnant again, are you?\” I asked.
\”No. But you have a job this summer.\”
I had been looking forward to summer with all my heart. With my parents in North Carolina, there was no choice but for me to live in the dorm while I took a full load of summer school courses. Contemporary Philosophy at 7 a.m.? I was all for it, as long as I was able to live on campus. So now I had a job. How bad could that be?
\”What is this job you have found me?\”
\”You will teach a television program.\” My mother went on to explain that this would be a new course, and that I was to write the textbook for it–more of a large pamphlet, actually, but still….
\”But I can\’t!\” I gasped. \” You know I can\’t. I\’ll be taking Contemporary Philosophy and Algebra, and there\’s no time to prepare. I have spring finals next week…\”
\”You have no choice. I have told them at the station that you will do it. Get to work on the textbook right away.\”
You know how it is. Sometimes you want to kill your parents. Sometimes I still do….
(To be continued.)