Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Legends (In Our Own Minds, That Is)

My beloved husband has a theory about legends. He grew up in Boston and is, therefore, a Boston fan, no matter where he lives, for the rest of his life. This is passed down from his family and is now, apparently, passed on to ours. A part of this theory is something called Legend Status. Larry Bird has it and from what I hear, so does Tom Brady. As Deech likes to put it, Larry could mow down a family a five and it wouldn't in ANY way diminish his status as a legend - a Boston Sports Hero.

So, you'll have to pardon my glee at the recent news about Tom Brady impregnating his ex-girlfriend. Deech (and my friend Laura) suggest entrapment on the part of Bridget, and my mother-in-law professes sympathy for Tom's parents, since his sister ALSO has a child out of wedlock. But, I am just thrilled to see a supposed SUPER human reduced to a mere mortal by one hot night.

If you look up the 'wiktionary' definition of legend, you'll find this:

legend (plural legends)

1. A story of unknown origin describing plausible but extraordinary past events.
Also historical legend.
2. A story in which a kernel of truth is embellished to an unlikely degree.
3. A leading protagonist in a historical legend.
4. Any person of extraordinary accomplishment.
5. A key to the symbols and color codes on a map, chart, etc.

So, focusing on three and four as his foundation, Deech seems to believe that once you have led your people out of darkness - sports victory darkness, that is, you are not held to the same standard as your average bear. Boy, if this only worked for everyone!

I think that historically speaking, we used to apply this legend status to war heroes and leaders. We shifted to some glamourized heroes - the John Wayne's of the world - then moved from assassinated politicians to Hollywood mistresses to rock and roll stars to athletes. Briefly, after 9/11, we remembered true heroism in average citizens but we seem more fascinated with these caricatures splashed across tabloids sold in drugstores and supermarkets.

My daughter, gratefully, is too young to be captivated by this nonsense. But, Ben is the perfect son. He cheers when Daddy cheers, yells when Daddy yells, throws tantrums when his father does...even though he has no idea what he's upset about.

Last night when I tucked Ben into bed I looked around his room - or, Daddy's shrine to Boston sports - and saw pennants, pom poms, foam fingers, fan towels, bobble heads and more for the Patriots, the Celtics, the Bruins and the Red Sox. It was also right then that I noticed something more important. A giant poster of #95, Lightning McQueen, over Ben's bed. Flannel Lightning McQueen sheets on Ben's bed. A pile of cars from the movie on the floor next to the bed. Storybooks from the movie on Ben's desk. And so on, and so on.

I think that it is perfect that the legend - the hero in Ben's world is an animated movie star. If you ask Ben what he wants to be when he grows up, it's Lightning McQueen. I think that is it appropriate, if not entirely safe, that in my son's world, his legend will never get old and washed up. He'll never impregnate Sally the Porsche. He'll never get arrested for driving under the influence - he'll never be tarnished in Ben's eyes. Like Larry and Tom are to my husband - only for real?!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

When Is Too Much TV, Too Much?

"Christmas comes together at K-Mart, Mama. Did you know that?"

This is what my son told me in December, and what should have been one of many signs that he was overly influenced by what Mommy watches on tv.

As luck would have it, the television station that I watch most frequently also broadcasts on the radio. So when I am in my car running errands, picking up the kids, driving to work, etc. I can hear all my shows...and so can my kids. I love good tv and bad tv - I am mostly addicted to noise. If there isn't something good on the tv station, I will listen to NPR or other news or talk radio stations. I have voices programmed up and down the dial. But, as for the tv shows, I can listen to Good Morning America, The View, Entertainment Tonight and all of my soaps. Ben asked me the other day if my show was ending. The opening credits of General Hospital were playing as we sat in the drive through ATM lane at the bank. I don't know if the fact that he realized it was 'my' show was the worst part, or that it happened to be the culmination of a three week storyline about a hostage crisis at The Metro Court hotel. Oh yes, and he asked me to turn it up.

Regardless, the most interesting thing about Ben's television fascination is how it reflects the attention span of children everywhere. He doesn't care about the show as much as the quick and quirky commercials. He is intimately familiar with the bee from Nasonex, the gecko from Geico and the mucus from Mucinex. We should have seen this coming. Our son was terrified of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for the first few years of his life. But when we went to the Indy 500 parade he ran screaming TOWARD Digger the dermatophite - you know, the toe fungus, from the Lamisil commercials. We have a picture on our fridge of him and Digger. It was a moment not soon to be forgotten.

I know that there are countless reports about the impact of television on children. How most children by the time they reach school have seen 100,000 acts of violence. Not my kid. However, he may end up working in an ad agency getting paid to create copy for creatures, real or imaginary. The bright side of this (if there is one) is that Ben isn't running around begging for me to buy him some sugary cereal, or some video game. There's still time for me to reform. I can be a better mom - I can play Raffi and the Wiggles on the radio.

I have returned my flower, a changed bee.