My island has television and a streaming service that gives us movies to our heart’s content. There are so many movies and shows available that it is overwhelming. Sometimes, by the time I have reviewed all my options, so much time has passed that I must turn off the devices to walk the dog or make lunch or move my limbs before ossification occurs.
In my childhood things were different. That island had television as well, but there were four channels that were reliable and another two in the mysterious realm of VHF that might not come in or might broadcast from China.
One desperate fortnight we were quarantined with the German Measles. My father declared himself an essential worker (I guess as a chief of orthopaedics at a major hospital he was that) so would sneak out in the small darkness of the early morning leaving my poor mother to fend off three bored children. In my memory I was eight, my brother eleven. My sister would have been thirteen, but she was always good at closing her door with a stack of books.
My mother had housework to do, leaving us boys to our own devices but unable to even leave the house to shoot baskets of play whiffle ball. We grabbed what comfort and amusement we could from the small television set in the den upstairs.
The afternoon was taken by soap operas (our house once appeared in the windows of the set of As The World Turns) which were of no interest to us. It was not baseball season. But there were movies – well, movie it turned out. There was a program called Million Dollar Movie which coupled an old film with a call-in lottery. It was on from one to four every afternoon.
All would have been great, my brother and I being film buffs, if they did not show the same movie every day for the whole week. The first week it was “Once Upon a Time”, a Cary Grant movie about a dancing caterpillar. The next week it was Grant this time fighting Nazi spies in a comedy called “Once Upon a Honeymoon.” We watched them repeatedly and religiously. I still have long portions of those two movies memorized even though I have seen neither in almost fifty years.
There is comfort in the ordinary sometimes. As thrilling as it is to have choice upon choice, sometimes knowing that the same movie will be on at the same time is the kind of structure we need.
If you have a chance, look for those movies. They feature Cary Grant at his best (although the caterpillar movie is a bit far-fetched). If you do spend a few hours with old Cary, tell him Keith and David say hello.