My wife has been tolerant of so many things, like the presence of sports on our television. Even when I am not in the room. She understands that sometimes I want to have the results spill out of the screen, but I am not always strong enough to look at them directly. She has also been very patient with the number of films that, even though I have committed them to memory, I insist on staring at once again as if they were new. Often reciting vast chunks of dialogue as they tumble by, as she sits idly by, waiting for another one of these nostalgic reveries to come to an end.
So imagine my surprise when she came in from the kitchen, took one look at the screen, and shouted, "How can you be watching this?" I was a little taken aback by her reaction, since I believed that everyone of our era had, at one time or another, been subjected to repeated viewings of The Lawrence Welk Show.
When my grandmother came over to babysit her three grandsons, we were made to understand that a certain portion of the evening would be spent in quiet reverie while soaking in the majesty of Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers. This was a time when the number of devices available in any household to watch television was limited, and color? Forget about it. So we sat, eyes rolling and ears aching as we endured the commercial breaks for Serutan, in hopes that we might be released from this vortex before we slid on into reruns of Hee Haw, another favorite of grandma's.
And somewhere in there, that whole mess became normal to me. The big hair. The polyester. The frigid homogenization of all music. It simply was exactly what it was. It became part of the firmament. Which is why I didn't flinch as hard as I might have when my younger brother and I were introduced to our new piano teacher, a woman with a deep and abiding obsession for all things Welk. With a specific focus on the accordionist, Myron Floren. While it is true that I did not suffer the way my brother did, attending Myron Floren concerts and having an accordion strapped to him at an age when a drum set or guitar would have suited him so much better.
But we didn't know any better. Which is why I was sitting in my living room, decades later, staring at a PBS rerun of a show taped before there was an Internet. Or remote controls. We watched what was on. We watched what grandma insisted we watch. And for this, I owe my wife a debt of gratitude: She shocked me out of my polka stupor, and got me back to not watching the baseball playoffs.