Outside, black clouds fling rain at the windows, my musical wind chime sings out variations of Em, and a gust knocks my twin chimney captains together. I’m sitting at a card table in the den, a space heater aimed at my legs and a pile of laundry in front of me to fold. I’m wearing black sweats coated with fur, dust and ash from cleaning out my car and the pellet stove and then emptying the clogged shop vacuum. Along the way, I discovered that if you put the hose in the wrong hole on the shop vac, it shoots out dirt in quite a dramatic fashion.
Before the laundry occupied the card table, I ate my dinner there, leftover pasta and sauteed vegetables, as the dog squinted and drooled, unable to comprehend that the no-sharing rule applies just as much in the den as it does in dining room.
I am tired. I got up at 5:30 a.m., played piano for four hours straight at church, went to lunch with friends, and then came home to a mountain of chores, including unloading 600 pounds of wood pellets, washing three loads of laundry, and walking the dog through the woods for an hour. French fry power, I thought, barely restraining myself from broadcasting my accomplishments on Facebook.
And now, my reward, the Academy Awards. Since I was a little girl in the 1950s, watching the show with my mom and dad, I don’t think I have missed even one broadcast. Mom grew up going to the movies. She rarely went to a show once we kids came around. There were no DVDs, no Netflix, no YouTube, or Tivo, but she knew all the stars and loved watching them and explaining who was who to her star-struck daughter sitting cross-legged on the floor near the TV. In the old days, Bob Hope was always the host. I didn’t enjoy his snarky brand of humor, but I loved the glamour, the gowns, and the music. I loved that we shared the show together in prime time—none of this early broadcast to accommodate the East Coast, no “Live from the Red Carpet” for hours before.
Years later, I watched the awards with my husband Fred. He, too, was older and remembered a generation before mine, but like me, he loved the movies. We would watch and comment together, sharing a giant bowl of popcorn loaded with butter and salt. As the shows stretched to three or four hours, we struggled to stay awake for the best actor and actress and best picture awards.
Things have changed so much. I watch the show alone now. Widowed almost two years ago, I get weepy when Oscar winners thank their spouses for the many years of love and support and the husband or wife in the audience is shown fighting tears. I get weepy when they show the pictures of all the people who have died in the past year, knowing that they will disappear into history and my generation will be the last one that knows them like friends.
Over the years, the jokes have gotten annoying, some of the hosts not so amusing. The musical numbers have shrunk, and the acceptance speeches have deteriorated into lists of people we’ve never heard of. But still, the Oscars have a glamour you don’t find in any of the other award shows. It’s the Super Bowl of show biz, so I watch. And this year, amid the tears, I discover I’m loving this show.
I love the new host—I know what they’re saying on Facebook. I never heard of Seth MacFarlane, but hey, he can sing and dance, and he’s handsome. His jokes aren’t any worse than any of the other hosts’. He can be the new Bob Hope, although I miss Billy Crystal’s opening numbers. I laugh out loud at the drunk sock puppets on the airplane in “Flight.” I watch in awe as Charlize Theron dances—who knew? I’m amazed that Shirley Bassey can still hit the big notes in “Goldfinger.” I tear up again when Barbara Streisand sings “The Way We Were” in honor of the late Marvin Hamlisch. Everyone is beautiful and talented, the right people are winning, and the actors feel like my friends because I have gone through so much with them in their movie roles.
For three hours and 35 minutes, as I fold laundry in front of the TV and wash dishes during the commercials, I forget about the storm, about my various aches and pains, about the wrinkles I see in the mirror, and about the work waiting to be done. It’s the Academy awards. I miss my mother, and I miss Fred, but the show goes on, and I have a front row seat.