When I look back on my childhood and certain days and events I’m nostalgic for, one particular day stands out above all the rest. It didn’t involve video games, Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, or Showbiz Pizza. It wasn’t running around an abandoned military base playing cops and robbers or making friends at the rec center. No, the one day I most commonly think back on was the first sick day I spent home alone.
I was in the fourth grade and my parents had recently divorced and I had moved with my father to Orlando. My mom had been a stay at home mom, so whenever I had the sniffles it was no big deal. So much so, I don’t ever remembering staying home until this one particular day circa 1993.
Now, before I go much further, I need to confess something: 1993 was almost thirty years ago. I was ten years old, I was sick, and my memory of the day isn’t 100%. I’m pretty confident things went down the way I recall, but there is definitely room for error and/or memory swapping with other sick days that same school year. Now, let’s continue.
I remember not feeling well the night before. It was nothing too severe, probably just a minor cold. Still, I was sick enough that going to school was out of the question, and so my father was forced to make a decision. Does he take the day off work to stay home with his sick child or does he trust me enough to take care of myself? My father went to work and I was told to give him a call if things got worse.
My symptoms got me up much earlier than I expected. I’m a fan of sleeping in, so for me to be up at 8 AM on a school day when I don’t have to go to school just doesn’t happen. I rolled out of bed and onto my bean bag which was conveniently placed right next to the bed and in front of the 23 inch TV that my brother and I shared. I sleepily turned on the TV and for the next eight hours, I found myself entertained in a way I had never been before.
The Price is Right, MacGyver, Wings, and Northern Exposure kept me company during that fateful day. I spent most of the time watching the USA Channel but eventually channel surfed around for random shows or clips of movies. This was nothing too new, as I was a huge fan of TV, but something felt different about that day.
There was that strange feeling of day-time TV which was totally unlike night time TV. Most channels had talk shows, soap operas, or the news airing and so that left me bouncing around the cable channels for something actual entertaining to watch. MacGyver really made me happy. I had enjoyed watching the show a few years earlier, but it had been a long time since I’d seen an episode. I remember thinking how much I wanted to grow up and be resourceful like MacGyver.
Wings presented me with a modern sitcom that was funny and quirky, and is a show I still love to this day. When I started watching Wings a couple years back, the first couple of seasons all I could think about was watching this show during a sick day with that old USA logo in the bottom right corner.
The Price is Right is one of those shared sick day experiences we seem to all have as a kid. It came on late enough that even if you slept in you’d still get a chance to watch it and it was bright enough and cheerful enough to attract a kids attention.
Northern Exposure is a weird one. This show would have been airing (like Wings) around this time still outside of syndication. I remember catching the opening credits with a moose wandering around a lonely town and it fascinated me. Over the next hour I watched a show that wasn’t anywhere near written for a ten year old, but something about it really connected with me. I enjoyed the surreal quirky community and it left an imprint of me all these years later. Outside of that one episode of Northern Exposure, I never got a chance to watch it again. It was syndicated although out the 90’s, but then disappeared and has never been made available streaming due to some complicated music rights. In the US, DVDs were made with all the original music replaced, but just this week I tracked down a copy of the German blu-rays which has the original music intact along with a pretty great transfer for such an old show.
Last night, I watched the first two episodes of Northern Exposure and like so many other things, it instantly took me back to that day in 1993. I was alone, but more important I was independent which is why I think the day has stuck with me for so long. It’s the first day I remember being truly independent and it was great.
I sometimes feel bad that the youth of today won’t experience things that I hold so dear. If I was ten years old today and home sick, I’m sure I’d be on my phone or my tablet Tweeting or Instagramming about my illness. I’d be chatting with my friends all day and I’d have so many apps and websites vying for my attention that I wouldn’t take the time to just experience life. I’m sure some old guy was saying the same thing in 1993 about watching black and white TVs or listening to the radio when he was sick, but I guess that’s just the way this cycle goes.
All I know is, that one date in 1993, I felt alive. I felt entertained and in the present moment and I feel like I’ve been searching for that feeling ever sense.