Stillness was a mystery in my household. This rings true not because of a slew of adventurous siblings, a pack of cantankerous pets, or even a rotating cast of visiting family and friends stumbling through my house, but rather the opposite – there was no one in my home. My parents and I lived happily and amused, but in a subdued nature that called for the outsourcing of ruckus. May it be the buzz of AM radio, the subtle but distinct whishing of turning pages, the pitter-patter of fingers on keyboard, or the unobtrusive hum of hapless nonsense on the television screen, my home was brought to life on a daily basis with the advent of media. However, in the same vein, the absence of such media ended the very life I had grown to love so much in my few years of existence.
The house changed when the magazines stopped coming. Words like "layoff," "outsourcing," and "cutting back" meant little to my 5-year-old mind, but the absence of our weekly glossy and colorful packets in the stack of mail on the kitchen counter spoke volumes. It said change. It said different. It said bad. No longer did my father eat his lunch while flipping through his latest issue of Sporting News and answer my questions about the pictures over my grilled cheese and "apple soup." No longer did my mother read pages aloud to me from Equus Magazine during still moments at the barn while I sat on her lap. No longer did the stack of National Geographic magazines under my parent's bookshelf grow. I knew this all to be so because I watched dutifully for things to return to normal - under the watchful eye of a kindergartener nothing goes unnoticed. And so, with the absence of magazines came the nonexistence of whishing glossy pages – the pictures so bright and pages so smooth. The house became quieter without my stubby fingers caressing the pages – stiller. And yet, life went on, just with a new emphasis placed on a different kind of print media.
The household bookshelves remained in tact, even after the magazines disappeared. No one took my Bernstein Bears collection away or snatched my well worn edition of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? On the contrary, their existence became all the more important in my mind. Books meant pictures. Books meant love. Books meant stability. Each day ended with a book of my choosing - will it be Dr Seuss' Monster in my Pocket or The Hungry Thing? No matter the selection, I would snuggle down next to one of my parents as they read and close my eyes to see the words turn into pictures in my head. There was a mouse dressed in toe shoes. There was the Sun and Moon being pushed into the sky by the Water. There was Amelia Bedelia dusting the curtains in her literal fashion. It was all there – a theatre in my head narrated by the comforting rhythm of my dad's hypnotic baritone or my mother's expressive lilt. The best thing of all was that I didn't even have to turn on the television to see my books come to life – but I did anyway.
When the magazines stopped coming, the television channels took less time to surf as my father flicked through the channels during commercial breaks. "Cutting back," apparently, was an all-encompassing concept in my household; no medium was left untouched. My television routine remained in tact, however – PBS was clearly too important to be excluded by this so-called "Basic Cable Package." Sesame Street, Shining Time Station, Reading Rainbow, and Lamb Chop made things seem less uncertain, less scary – just as the background noise of a television in an empty house is still reassuring to me to this day. The television was never off when the house was occupied - always streaming some show just loud enough to be recognizable but not a bother. (For this reason, I still know the theme song to the Guiding Light but have no memory of any of my family watching it other than for a few seconds after The Price is Right.) Always left on, the television provided a sense of security for me, even to the point of becoming my nightlight the same year we "cut back." No dark shadows were left to haunt my dreams – just the inaudible buzz of QVC's Special Value® in the wee hours of the night. And with that, life remained in my home – just a little different than before.
Stillness may have been a mystery in my household – but change was not. Change touched everything, each buzz, whish, pitter-patter, and hum of media. Each noise once added a spark to my existence, a new avenue of adventure without leaving the confines of the comforting circle of my parent's arms. Surely, media were accepted as sources of entertainment, of education, of commonality with the community, but for me they meant and mean something more: Media were stability. Media were comfort. Media were safety.
Media are home.