With their bags sitting on the floor just inside the door and Alexis sound asleep on Kelly’s shoulder, Genevieve and Kelly stood for a few long moments looking around their home, which seemed so familiar, yet strangely odd to them after their absence. Each thought about the weeks past, and their respective travels that changed their lives; Kelly having stopped thinking of Misty as being synonymous for MOTHER, and Genevieve having changed the meaning of Louise from mother-in-law to friend. All the while they were going through these life changes, the house, the farm, were waiting for them, seemingly unchanged.
“Home sweet home,” they said in unison, expressing their heartfelt joy to be home from Florida.
“You want to try that again? … In unison this time?” asked Kelly joking, causing his wife to laugh deeply, though it was a joke they often shared, as they tended to speak in unison.
Genevieve’s laughter was cut short, as she stared at something over Kelly shoulder. Kelly realized what his wife must have seen, but he tried his best to keep his face arranged in the very image of innocence.
“What, may I ask is that?” she asked pointing at a television set that Kelly tried to make unnoticeable at the edge of the living room, with no success what so ever. Genevieve’s voice rose well above the whispers that they were speaking in, as they brought the sleeping child into the house. Alexis woke up and saw the television.
“My TV! Mommy, Mommy, Nana gave me TV! I can watch Tom and Jerry! I can watch Deputy Dog. I can watch …” Alexis suddenly found herself at a loss as to what shows to mention, there were so many she watched at Nana’s house that she loved. “When is Saturday, Daddy?” she asked.
“Why tomorrow ba…” Kelly started to say Baby, but he saw a line forming between his little girl’s eyes that matched the one her mother was displaying, and he changed his word, “Tomorrow sweet pea, tomorrow. Now let’s get you upstairs and get you to bed. The sooner you get to sleep, the sooner you will be able to watch TV.”
Alexis was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, and well before Kelly pulled the comforter up to her chin and followed his icy wife out of the child’s room to their bedroom. As soon as the door closed, Kelly started to explain.
“I am sorry dear, but Mom didn’t want to take it to Florida. Mom said that she wanted to get a new one and would buy it there. I am afraid that Mom told Alexis that she could have the television. Alexis was so excited to think that she would be able to watch cartoons here at home, it helped her get over the fact that her grandmother was going away. I couldn’t resist accepting it for her,” explained Kelly to his steaming wife.
“Oh, Kelly, sometimes!” she said, opening the door again and heading for the bathroom, wondering how she would ever get rid of that thing sitting downstairs without Alexis thinking her a bad guy.
Weeks went past, as Genevieve sought to reason with her husband to get rid of the television set, with Kelly always insisting he couldn’t bear taking Alexis’ cartoons away from her, since watching cartoons were always her special treat when she went to visit her grandmother. Things continued on in the stalemate until one night when Genevieve was sitting on the veranda, in silent protest of the blue glow of the television set in the living room, while Kelly was riveted to one of his shows.
Kelly made a great show that the TV was for Alexis’ cartoons, an idea that Genevieve wasn’t at all comfortable with. She couldn’t help noticing that the set was on more in the evenings for Bonanza and Car-54 Where Are You?, than it was on Saturday mornings for Alexis’ cartoons. As he watched his show, he knew that his wife was reading by the light of a small lamp on the veranda, and not wanting to incur her wrath, he set the TV volume set as low as he could and still hear the show. It was in this atmosphere of quiet enjoyment that Alexis put an end to her parents’ disagreement, and to the television era in the Archie household.
“Daddy, look,” called Alexis, ducking under the swinging louvered doors leading to the kitchen, carrying a tea strainer in one hand. She padded over to where her father was balancing a bowl of popcorn, something he become quite good at making since coming home, on his lap while watching the television. Genevieve came in from the veranda, curious to see what her daughter sounded so proud of. As Alexis held up the tea strainer, her mother saw that it was coated with Vaseline and filled with water.
“Why, it’s interesting, Alexis; where did you get that idea from?” Her mother asked, wondering if the Vaseline would ever come off the strainer well enough for it to be used for tea again.
“Tee-Vee” said Alexis, pointing at the glowing box.
“Why, isn’t that interesting, Ba…, Honey!” said Genevieve to Alexis, trying to sound sincere in her comment. “Let’s go into the kitchen and see what it will take to get the Vaseline off the strainer.” Alexis marched in front of her mother back to the kitchen, happily carrying her strainer experiment. Kelly followed behind with the towel he had been wiping his buttery fingers on, to wipe up the splashes of water from the floor.
Once in the kitchen Genevieve was dismayed to find a chair drawn up to the counter, and realized her daughter had climbed up above the hard kitchen floor, to reach the counter where Eileen Griffin kept her Vaseline; The Vaseline that she used to anoint her hands after washing dishes. It was kept conveniently close to the sink, and inconveniently close to the tea-strainer.
Genevieve kept up a stream of chatter with Alexis while putting the teakettle on to boil, and finding a glass baking dish deep enough to submerge the basket of the tea-strainer. When the kettle started to boil, Genevieve crouched down to Alexis level and said, “Okay we are ready for the strainer.”
“This is fun Mommy!” said Alexis, holding out the strainer for her mother to take, and smiling joyfully.
Kelly picked Alexis up so she could see what her mother was doing, and they both watched as Genevieve repeatedly filled the baking dish with boiling water. “Well, it looks pretty clean but I will let it sit in the water until tomorrow. Hopefully, Eileen won’t have to use soap on it,” she remarked.
“I suspect that Eileen uses soap on that strainer every time our backs are turned,” commented Kelly, dryly.
“You are probably right, but my mother taught me that you never put soap on your tea or coffee making equipment. I guess the earliest lessons are the hardest to forget. Come on ba… sweetheart it is time for dreaming,” she said, taking Alexis from her father.
“Nite, Nite, Daddy!” said the little towheaded girl, waving over her mother’s retreating shoulder.
After getting their daughter off to bed Genevieve returned to the living room studio to talk with her husband about their daughter’s sudden interest in kitchen experiments. Seeing his show was ending, she walked over to the box and secured the power. Turning she realized that her husband hadn’t been watching the show, but was sitting in deep thought.
The silence left by the television alerted him to his wife’s return. “Oh, Genevieve, I have been pondering just how Alexis got the idea to make her little experiment. I think I know,” he said.
“I am listening,” said Genevieve with curiosity.
“On the television there is a commercial where a woman coats a tea strainer with Vaseline and fills it with water, while she explains that it will waterproof a baby’s bottom, and prevent diaper rash.”
“Why not just use a baby?” asked Genevieve.
“I don’t rightly know. But Alexis was just copying what she saw. You are right, Genevieve, that box has to go. Who knows what else Alexis might copy from it?” asked Kelly rhetorically, and received a kiss of appreciation from his wife.
“You are right my dear. If you think about how many of the shows are about sensible husbands with ditzy wives. We really don’t want Alexis growing up thinking it is okay to be childlike in her relationships with men,” she said.
“Oh, my god, don’t think about that! Not yet! She is just a little baby … I mean little big girl,” he said, suddenly imagining watching the taillights of a car retreating from the house, carrying away his daughter on her first date.
The next morning Alexis came downstairs already dressed in her small jeans and cambric shirt, assisted by her similarly dressed father, who was making sure that her new cowboy boots didn’t slip on the stairway runner. She was eager for her morning dose of cartoons and was surprised to find an empty space where the box once was.
“Where’s Tee-Vee?” she asked leaving her father and heading for her mother, who was already seated at her easel preparing her paints, to get an answer. Her father trailed at what he hoped was a safe distance to avoid the expected tantrum.
“Oh, dear, the TV was just visiting, it had to go back to its home,” her mother said lightly, making a show of being busy arranging her brushes, and waited for the tantrum to commence.
“Oh,” said Alexis, unconcerned as to why the television had visited her grandmother so much. Turning she clattered across the wooden floor to duck under the swinging doors on her way to the backdoor. Pushing the screen door open, which Eileen left unhooked during the day, she went off to look to see if the skinny cat she saw from her window that morning meant new kittens in the barn, leaving her surprised parents looking at each other in amazement and relief.