How the heck could we have come up with such a topic on the Sunday before Memorial Day? That should become apparent a little further on.
Alene and I grew up without morning TV, which didn’t start in the UK until 1983 — literally a few days before Alene moved to the USA. She spent the first few months being homesick, as most people do, and she sought out British newspapers to read in pubs that served English beer. But that eventually got tiresome and she started to allow the local culture to gain a foothold.
One morning, she put the TV on as soon as she woke up and watched The Today Show. It was hosted by Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel in those days, and Willard Scott was actually still in the studio to do the weather. Alene enjoyed the weather segments. In 1983, it was still very low-tech and Willard’s backdrop was a large static map. But it was this rather unimaginative map and Willard’s less-than-imaginative presentation that somehow finally drew Alene in to America – the country where people really live, sometimes achieving the grand old age of one hundred years — as opposed to the abstract place she had been merely visiting. The other TV program that drew her in was the ABC soap All My Children — but we’ll talk about that some other time.
By the time I joined Alene to watch The Today Show, now hosted by Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, the annual march of the calendar was very familiar to Alene. We haven’t tuned in since the spring of 2009, when the analog TV signals were turned off and Alene decided to just ditch TV altogether — so the routine we are about to describe will have been updated and seen personnel changes — but we suspect it is still recognizable. So here goes:
First week of January: advice for keeping those New Year resolutions, especially for weight loss or fitness. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program (assuming you actually CAN get an appointment before the end of March.)
Superbowl Week: make healthy snacks for your Superbowl party. Cut out fat and calories by serving raw vegetables and low-fat dip instead of yummy nachos drenched in cheese, beans, sour-cream and guacamole. (Yeah, right.)
February: Valentine dates to fit every budget (and give your average man a nervous breakdown) — and let’s get you bored with the Academy Awards before the big Sunday night!
March: Willard reappears dressed as a leprechaun. If Easter happens in March, Martha Stewart decorates eggs.
April: Top Ten Tax Tips (they love alliteration, don’t they?). The one that drives me mad is about paying your property taxes early so that you can deduct them this year. (But then you won’t have them to deduct next year – they never mention that part!) If Easter happens in April, Martha Stewart decorates eggs.
May: this month is about getting ready for swimsuit season, with advice on buying a swimsuit to flatter your body type — and then exercises to target those trouble spots. (As always, consult your doctor first.) And don’t forget the skin care routine for gorgeous summer feet! May also sees the first barbecue segment of the summer, with an appropriately white-hatted chef tending the grill outside on the street in a cloud of blue smoke so that you can learn how to put on a perfect Memorial Day barbecue. (This is what prompted the memories!)
June: as kids are released from school for the summer, parents need ideas to keep them busy. It’s also time to remind us about sun screen and Lyme disease.
July: the chef is back out on the street with the barbecue. Martha Stewart makes the perfect red-white-and-blue frosted treat for your July 4 party. Suggestions to keep the kids happy in the car on long road trips this summer (these days, they probably suggest iPad apps and games.)
August: sorry kids! It’s time for you to go back to school! Coping advice for parents of kindergarteners and college freshmen.
September: the barbecue chef puts in one more appearance for the perfect Labor Day barbecue. I tell you, if you haven’t figured out barbecuing by this time, you need to hang up your tongs and spatula for good.
October: Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Costumes. Treats. Safety advice for Trick-or-Treating. Anchors and weatherman out on the street in costume.
November: holiday gift suggestions, especially the hot toys of the season for kids. A reminder about choking hazards for small children — make sure nothing fits through a toilet roll. Closer to Thanksgiving, advice for enjoying holiday parties without wrecking your diet. I don’t understand why we’re told to avoid alcohol (unless driving, of course.) You can enjoy several glasses of wine for the calories that are in a single slice of pecan pie. When I drink soda water instead of wine, I end up pigging out on pie instead.
December: advice for navigating the hazards of Christmas — the office party, Christmas tree fire hazards, last-minute shopping ideas. Once Christmas is over, then you need to know how to dispose of the tree and have a safe New Years Eve. Finally, we look back on the year and remember everyone who died.
Then we advance the year by one — and rewind the tape.
(Of course, we are remembering it from a few years ago. Hopefully, someone has changed the tape in the meantime.)