It was definitely Sunday. The year is less certain—somewhere in the late ’80s or early ’90s. But we were back from church, and Mom had watched her assorted Sunday news shows. Someone was flipping around to see what else was on. On TLC—still, in those days, The Learning Channel—they were playing Connections. The whole thing, it turns out. And there, the channel surfing stopped. As did my family. For the rest of the day, there we sat, watching James Burke telling us about the weird byways that made up the modern world.
Some Instagrammer posted an image recently telling us to take our kids outside and go hiking or whatever, because they wouldn’t remember time spent watching TV. But I do. My sisters probably do, too. I’m the memory bank for my family—my older sister even still asks me questions from when we were little—but I’m sure, if I asked, my sisters could also come up with times where we as a family shared TV as an experience.
Genuinely, it’s not surprising. It’s a shared experience, and those can create positive memories regardless of what the experience is. The fact is that you are there, creating common experiences, and no matter what you’re doing as a family, that is what you’re doing as a family. Oh, we do have some vague outside memories as well—my mom hates camping, but I remember some camping, some hiking, many museum trips—but I also remember the TV. And the movies. If we’d gone to plays, we’d have fond memories of going to plays together.
In short, we have fond memories of sharing culture. And that is not surprising. That is part of what our species does and has done, quite probably as long as we’ve been a species. Picture our ancestors thousands of years ago sharing in the stories, the cave paintings, and all of that. Being people together, learning how to be people. We learn that from our parents, yes, and the other people in our lives, but we also very much learn culture from outside forces.
Not only that, but everything we do as a family shapes us as a family. I have the kind of family that enjoyed watching Connections for eight hours, and that is us. Possibly your family would not have happy memories from doing that and would instead look at it as some sort of punishment. I think a lot of it is why we’re also the sort of family that has happy memories of going to museums, and boy can I tell you those as well. I don’t have happy memories of watching sports with my family, because we don’t like sports. Our family is different, but what we share both makes us what we are and is because of who we were in other ways.
It is, of course, appropriate that it’s Connections that always comes to mind first for me. But I also have a fine, happy memory from some years later with the sister I don’t like. It was another family museum trip, this one not as successful as most of them. Still, there we were. And I suddenly had a thought come to mind about Animaniacs, which I shared with my sister. Who started laughing and got the Death Glare from Mom—shared with me, because after all Mom has met me. So I patiently explained the reference—Mom wasn’t an Animaniacs fan—and made it at her. This got the You’re Not Funny Look. I’ll take it.