The purpose of sit-coms is to allow us an escape, even for 30 minutes, from the hustle and bustle of our busy day. They are meant to make us laugh and see that our own lives aren't quite as crazy as we think they are.
But every once in a while, a sit-com will offer us a moment that seems deeper — a moment that makes us blur out the rest of the story and concentrate on that one simple message.
That moment came for me a few days ago while watching "Everybody Loves Raymond," a regular part of the evening lineup in the Vincent home.
In that episode, Frank, who was celebrating a birthday, was having a meltdown over the fact that his favorite records were ruined 30 years earlier by one of the boys. Robert had spent weeks looking in yard sales and flea markets for records his father had lost. Raymond, who'd been led to believe he was the culprit as a 10-year-old, bought all of his father's favorite music on CD.
Not so much.
Frank listened to about seven seconds of the first song on a CD, which sounded crisp and clear, and then pulled the plug. He told Raymond that the CDs weren't as good as his old records, saying, "there's nothing like good ol' American vinyl."
That's when Robert went to the Victrola and laid the needle on one of the records ... and Frank sat there on the couch with his eyes closed and a smile on his face as the music — in all its scratchiness — played its tune. Frank was in heaven.
The message here is that "new and improved" doesn't necessarily grab your memories and send you back to younger days. For Frank, the quality of the record, with all its flaws, is what took him back 30 years. The actual music was almost secondary.
Think about the things that may do that for you.
For instance, the beach remains a favorite place for me. But the sound of the waves isn't just soothing, it takes me back to a time when my family spent summer vacations at the shore in Delaware. The sound of the surf was the definition of fun. It meant being with family. Sure, there was a lot more to it, but the rhythmic sound of crashing waves is the one thing from those days that flips the memory switch.
And those 10-speed and 15-speed bicycles are sure sleek and fancy, aren't they? But nothing can replace my memories of those summer days on a brand new, red Schwinn with the big tires. That bicycle took me places far from my usual stomping grounds, often through woods and over rough terrain. Baseball cards flipping against the spokes gave it an identity; a sound that preceded my appearance; an engine, of sorts.
Any amount of falling snow also whisks me back to childhood days up north, when snow fell in feet rather than in flakes. As pretty as it is to watch a rare flurrying today, that very first snowflake immediately reminds me of building snow forts, sledding down long hills and jumping icy ramps with a Snurfer. It was a time when my friends and I never felt the cold, no matter how much of it found its way into our boots, coats and gloves.
Even something like a car can race my mind back to the good ol' days. If I see a nice Chevy Nova or Chevelle, I'm suddenly in my high school's parking lot, where a couple of buddies had one of those treasures that I wanted so badly. Mustangs and GTO's may have been a common choice among teenagers back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but not for me. When I dreamed of a hot car, it was a Nova or Chevelle — and they stimulate my childhood memories still today.
My final example of the day takes me back to Frank and his records.
In my lifetime, I've seen 33s, 45s, 78s, albums, cassettes, 8-tracks and CDs. Each seemed to posses a quality all its own. Those 33s make me think of my parents and their Connie Francis or Nat King Cole music; 8-tracks take me back to my college days at Oklahoma State; and CDs are the things that will spark our grandchildrens' memory of their good ol' days. But it's those 45s that take me back to my early teen years of listening to the radio all weekend long trying win the "Name It And Claim It" contests, or arranging the shelf full of 45s alphabetically, or having a sleepover and playing everything from the Beatles to Elvis to the Zombies. And who over the age of 40 can forget those plastic, circular inserts that had to be fitted into the hole of the 45 before it could be played?
Frank had it exactly right — and his boys, Raymond and Robert, will get it right someday, too. They'll soon realize that it's not what you see or hear today that matters as much as where it takes you and the memories it rekindles.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 148, or by e-mail at email@example.com.