Growing up in a rural Hancock, Wisconsin where my grandparents were my neighbors, my dad had the one car for his job, and my siblings were too old to be fun meant I learned to adapt to living life with plenty of time for self-amusement. I have thought often about those years during this pandemic. In just a couple months it will be nearly a year since this health crisis took hold of our country. And this home.
And yet there are reasons to be grateful. This home has had nothing more serious to contend with this year than mold spores and tree pollen. Too many others have had to face tragic situations with this virus that make me feel totally powerless when following the news—my first instinct wanting to make things better. The only thing we can do here is to follow the advice of medical professionals, and respect the needs of nurses and other essential workers by largely staying at home.
I had a number of thoughts along these lines very late one night during the holiday weekend when James brought out a speaker that links with an iPad. He hit the play button and our home was transported back to the 1940s with the Jack Benny radio program. The comic was shopping for Christmas gifts and the cast of regulars added to the timeless humor. How do you make a Venetian blind?…..Poke him in the eye!
As I listened to the big band music and the laughter from the studio audience it was a reminder of how an inspiring backward glance can be a tonic as we move forward. One could see the cheer and companionship of the radio listeners those decades ago around the radio in the kitchen or living room of homes across the nation. It took so little, comparatively speaking, to complete and satisfy the needs and desires of those listeners.
I recall what was termed in my childhood as ‘long winter evenings’ where the comfort of a warm home, books, and some comedy shows on television constituted a pleasant time. As the radio show ended, and James played another Benny seasonal episode, I thought about how most people in the city are probably not aware of just being content in the moment, not needing to run to and fro.
I have read and heard much about what is being described as ‘pandemic fatigue’ which accounts for millions who traveled for Thanksgiving and decided to shop in stores over the past weekend. There is almost a requirement among many to be anywhere but home–even when common sense and science say we need to stay put.
Those wanting to experience the atmosphere of what I am writing about can do so with a new production of a classic Christmas story. There is a free radio production of A Christmas Carol performed, produced, and made available thanks to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. It premieres at 7 PM on Dec 1. That venue has created this annual tradition for their stage for more than 40 years. This year they used their creativity to keep the tradition alive, and safe for the cast and the audience.
I heard about this production on WGN this week with the added advice that to have a most spectacular experience wear headphones as the sounds—just like they used in the radio shows of the 40s’–will be masterfully applied.
Old-time radio will clearly not be the tonic that will lift the sail for all who are feeling limitations during this pandemic. But it will place the listener into a different mindset for an hour. And that is worth a lot these ‘long winter evenings’.
And so it goes.