I grew up in a small town in Utah, surrounded by even smaller towns, in a rather small valley, surrounded by rather large mountains. This was back in the day before cable television…oh my God, I feel so OLD saying that! I sound like my grandparents, when they would tell me stuff like, “Back in the day, the “rich” kids would saddle up their horses and ride to school…but I had to WALK to school in 3 feet of snow, with no snow boots and wearing a coat that my mother made out of flour sacks!”
Anyway – I digress – the point I was trying to make is that there was no cable television and those of us in the valley who wanted to watch television had to have a huge television antenna mounted on the roof of the house. Bunny ears sitting on top of the television didn’t cut it (if you don’t know what those are, you are probably too young to be reading this – but luckily, since you live in the age of technology, you can Google to find out what I’m talking about). You could get the local university/PBS station with the bunny ears – but not the three network stations from Salt Lake City (yes, there were only THREE stations “back in the day.”)
Since we lived in a rental house while the dream house was being built, we did not have a massive television antenna on the roof. We only got the local PBS television station with our bunny ears and there wasn’t any choice in the programming – so I when I watched TV, it was always Electric Company, Zoom, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, or Sesame Street. I was in first and second grade during this time and my peers (who had network television) considered it highly uncool to only have PBS. I watched more than I let on to my classmates, but I also had to find other things to occupy my time to try to keep my “cool factor” intact (but as you can probably guess, that did not pan out so well for me).
As I mentioned before, my parents loved to read and there were always books around the house. Since there was no acceptable television, I began to read out of desperation. However, soon I found that inside these books there were different worlds, adventures to be had, mysteries to solve, and I was always part of the action! I became good friends with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I journeyed to Narnia and was a frequent visitor to Oz. I found secret gardens, toured chocolate factories, and traveled in a giant peach. I related to other children who had to fend largely for themselves, like the Sam on his side of the mountain and Karana on her island of the blue dolphins.
As I grew into my teens, my choice of reading material changed as my interest I boys increased. I discovered Harlequin romances and signed up for their automatic shipments each month, paying the monthly fee with my allowance and birthday money. My sister and I shared a living space in the basement with two tiny bedrooms attached to a large shared room with built in desks and bookshelves covering most of the walls. My Harlequin collection grew and grew, until it was taking up most of the bookshelf space. I found the stories titillating and exciting – with handsome, successful men and beautiful, often fragile females. Usually the stories started with the main characters meeting and hating each other, but finding themselves drawn to each other sexually – almost against their will. Of course, after misunderstandings, heated arguments, and passionate sex, the hero and heroine would admit their deep and undying love for one another – and they lived happily ever after.
One of the few memories I have of my mom attempting to share motherly wisdom was at this time, when she hesitantly told me that she worried I would grow up thinking this was the way people behaved in real life – and that love was really very different. She may have said more about what love really was, but I was a teenager and talking to my mom about stuff like that creeped me out, so I quickly blocked the particulars of that conversation from my mind. It occurred to me later that perhaps I should have paid more attention, because many of my relationships, including my marriage to The Loser, played out along the lines of a particularly dysfunctional, rather violent, emotionally destructive Harlequin romance (without all of the good sex).
I’ve now moved onto a wider range of book genres, including dystopian young adult novels (always good times when civilization as we know it ends), paranormal romances (because vampires, werewolves, and shape shifters are the backbone to a good, stable relationship), and urban fantasy (because – well, just because I want to wear leather, carry large swords, and kick some ass – don’t judge me!) I’ve also rediscovered some of the novels of my youth and some new ones I never read back then. Reading them is bittersweet – reminding me of the childhood I had, as well as the childhood I wanted to have, but never did.