Watching television in the summertime can be a dreary affair. The hundreds of available channels tend to pack their schedules with reruns or replacement programs of dubious value. Most of us are too busy enjoying travels and the long hours of daylight to really care about the dearth of decent options but when rain is dampening plans we sometimes reach for our remotes hoping to find something interesting and worthy to view. Sadly our options aren’t always promising.
The summer Olympics in Rio have been fun but somehow NBC manages to go into overkill with certain events and completely ignore others that might be interesting. I have found myself tuning out every time that they showcased yet another beach volleyball game. Don’t get me wrong. Those competitions are fast paced and even have the potential to be exciting but when they seem to be part of the programming every single day they soon get old. On the other hand we never get to see much related to soccer or rugby or basketball. I thoroughly appreciate the finals in swimming and track but don’t really need to see every event leading up to those matches. I’d much prefer a montage of the many different sports and not just those that NBC has selected for my viewing pleasure. I suspect that I am not alone in my thinking because ratings for the Olympics are down.
Luckily there is a bright spot in the vacuous desert of summer programming. Stranger Things is yet another Netflix original limited series that demonstrates how a great story, taut writing, a perfect cast and stunning production can elevate a simple idea into a winner. Stranger Things is so nineteen eighties and that is a very good thing. The tale weaves a tapestry of mystery with characters right out of the movies that we so loved in that era. Subtle but powerful touches include a soundtrack of eighties favorites that illicit memories of MTV with starring roles for once young actors and actresses who have settled into middle age. The formulaic themes so common in the golden age of the eighties are all there but with twists and turns that keep us on the edges of our seats. Stranger Things is a romp through the past that seems to have elements of Goonies, E.T., Sixteen Candles and Alien. In other words, it is great fun, especially for those of us who so enjoyed that glorious time.
When I think of the eighties I get a huge smile on my face. It was a decade when everything in my world was going well. I loved my job and had few worries. I lived in a great neighborhood and enjoyed adventures with so many wonderful friends. My two girls kept me busy but I loved every moment with them. I was still in my thirties, a time when I was confident, energetic and still rather nice looking. We traveled all across the United States as a family and created memories that are vividly exciting even to this day. The world itself seemed safer and less complex. We lived contentedly at the end of a cul-de-sac thinking that life would always be as perfect as it appeared to be back then. We were so busy enjoying our little slice of heaven that we hardly noticed the changes that were brewing just as they inevitably do.
We would all grow older. Family members and dear friends would die. Our children became adults who left our little nest to begin their own sagas. The world seemed to evolve into a more dangerous place. Our nostalgia for the good old days increased and yet if truth be told these are good times as well.
The reality of life is that it is in constant motion. As the Bible so beautifully tells us there is a season for everything. How we react to each stage of our existence will color the way that we view our past, present and future. With the right attitude we are able to accept and enjoy our status even with the many changes that alter the way we live. True joy comes in embracing the moment and finding the blessings that most surely are right in front of us.
My mother was masterful at enjoying the simplest of things. She had very little money but she never complained. She received as much joy from a McDonald’s sausage biscuit as she might have had from breakfast at Brennan’s. The simple act of waking up each morning was a grand miracle in her mind. Each day was precious to her and she packed her hours with generosity and love. Whether she looked backward or forward at her life she was filled with optimism. She loved the eighties like me but she appreciated all of the other decades as well and they spanned from the twenties of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty first. She had a way of finding the silver lining even on the darkest of days and constantly assured us that every problem has a way of working itself out if we are willing to be patient.
Watching Stranger Things reminded me of one of my favorite times but it also made me think of just how wonderfully far I have come. I now have seven grandchildren who weren’t even part of my imagination back then. I have met so many remarkable people in the days since dresses had more padding than a football uniform. The inventiveness of humankind in the last thirty years has made virtually every aspect of my existence far easier than it has ever been. I can tutor my granddaughter or visit with my grandson without any of us leaving our homes thanks to technology. I am daily reminded of how lucky I am and of the goodness of most of the world. It is with a sense of anticipation that I think of what may lie ahead. I suspect that wondrous things are on the horizon and that’s a good thing.
The best thing about life is how creative we humans are again and again. We adapt and thrive and carry on because it is in our natures to build rather than destroy. We laugh and enjoy the adventure of a good challenge. The bonds that tie us all together weather the test of time and there is nothing strange about that.