Prime Time

Ours is an old neighborhood. Old trees. Old houses. Old people, whose one surety in life is the six o’clock news. Wheel of Fortune comes on at seven. Postseason baseball airs after that, and since the Cardinals aren’t in the hunt, folks drift off in their recliners till the grandfather clock gongs 10.

Daylight Savings brought the darkness falling through the trees an hour sooner. We’re eating dinner in it now, and so my evening walks are now nighttime walks, when I need a coat and flashlight. The last of the sun burns low in the bare trees, and the moon rises. Houselights and TV’s flick on, and I’ve never been able to help myself: I like to look inside. There is a strange comfort in the light of a living room window— even if it’s the blue, vacillating light of a flatscreen.

Last week at church, I talked to Paul. He’s in his fifties and has Down’s Syndrome, and he likes TV shows. I asked which were his favorites, and he said Wheel of Fortune and Full House. Paul came over one day last year, and my family watched the Brady Bunch and Free Willy with him all afternoon.

“I don’t like M*A*S*H though,” Paul added, “Too much killing… and stuff.” He mumbled something else and shook his head.

I’m like Paul. Our family has always watched the old shows and has never had a Netflix subscription. I don’t have bad things to say about streaming or cable, but when you can’t watch new shows on demand, you learn to wait for the old ones that come on at Prime Time. During quarantine, we established an accidental liturgy of watching The Dick Van Dyke Show every night at nine. The world had gone turvy, the days felt long, and so we found a strange comfort in black-and-white reruns.

I find a strange comfort in knowing everyone on the block is socked in for the night, hunkered in their recliners, watching the shows they watched the night before (and not at all minding). We’re all looking for something sure in this world, something good without too much killing, something that will light the windows of our homes and lull us into a good sleep. On Edgewood Road at dusk – when the air is brittle and moon rising on winter – that surety happens to be Prime Time.

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