The Dulcet Tones of Mr. Ed
He often complained that I spent too much time in front of the TV, that because I spent so much time there I didn’t have many friends, that maybe life was passing me by. Only later did I discover that what he was really saying was that he wished I would spend less time watching old sitcoms and spend more time “out there", making friends I could lean on so I would be less inclined to lean on him. He had for years said I was his best friend, so his sudden desire to find new friends for me was troubling. I had by this time grown so large with expectant motherhood that the most strenuous thing I could do anymore was flip TV channels (as if a heavily pregnant woman can hit the shopping malls or the nightclubs and look for new companions anyway).
I remember those first days in the Blue Apartment after our son was born. It was early February and winter was in full swing. The television remained on for two entire weeks, fourteen straight days and nights, sometimes muted, never blaring, the picture always there to distract my errant thoughts, to soothe me when no one else even wanted to try. It wasn’t just my obsession with old TV shows that caused this, but physical necessity. My son had come to me as the result of seven hours of a hard back labor, and instead of his soft, cartilaginous face pressing against my internal spine, I had become intimately acquainted with the back of his hard little head instead, and that labor had wreaked havoc on my back and legs. As a result, I could not walk forward for several days after his delivery (imagine the ingénue mother walking her new baby around the house backwards) and I could no longer lay flat in a bed. I could, however, prop myself up slanted and sideways on the living room sofa, which was, of course, conveniently located in front of the TV. We spent many a quiet night alone, mother and child, dozing fitfully on cushions of blue and grey, his perfect form resting heavily on my chest with the lights low and the TV on.
As I sustained my newborn son in those first halcyon days, the sound of the television sustained me. It was my link to the outside world, it was old familiarity in a new world turned necessarily upside down by the instant and unrelenting demands of motherhood. The old comfortable sitcoms from my own childhood and adolescence sustained me in lieu of a devoted partner that I could lean on to see me through the fog of that overwhelmingly emotional time, as I adjusted to the new life that now rested on top of me instead of inside me. The devotion he could have shown me, the comfort and reassurance he could have given me was now reserved for the baby and the daylight hours. The nights found me on my own again, laying quietly in front of the TV with the brutal knowledge that for the next twelve hours or so, I was parenting alone…a bruised and bloated Nightwatchmom….he could have been there with me, and the fact that he chose not to be gave me no choice but to self soothe to the dulcet tones of Mr. Ed.