Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: Popcorn, a Mouse, My Dad, and Ice Hockey

I'm a Chicago Blackhawks hockey team fan. Last night I was watching game five against the Los Angeles Kings. The Hawks eliminated the Kings from the Stanley Cup finals in double overtime. A lucky charm -- my tuxedo cat Jefferson -- was laying on the back of my chair; my husband showed up periodically to watch bits of the game; I was eating popcorn while watching the almost four-hour, roller-coaster game.

Eating popcorn and watching the game is tradition, it seems so natural to me -- I've been doing it now for almost 60 years! The only difference between mid-1950s and now? Well, now I microwave popcorn, I have a cat on the back of my chair, a husband who isn't a hockey fan, and there's no mouse! 

This got me to thinking. I know, that can be dangerous, but in this case it was a sentimental thought of times past. Memories, this blog is not just for genealogical research.

Besides watching "Howdy Doody Show" or Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" back then, I remember watching the Blackhawks hockey games with my dad who was an avid sports fan. It was a simpler time sitting on the couch waiting for the television's tubes to warm up. There was no remote to get lost in the couch. We had to get up from our seat and walk across the room to change channels by turning a "dial" or slap the side of the tv box to stop the screen's "snow." This was not the HD tv we know today!

Getting ready for the hockey game, dad would pop corn the old-fashioned way -- on the stove. He used an old stock pot with a lid that didn't fit tight because of all the dents. This made for a few laughs because some of the kernels would pop out onto the floor. Sometimes dad would forget to put the lid on right away and we had kernels escaping like a volcanic eruption, onto the stove and the floor -- much to the displeasure of my mom, but a grand time for me! This seemed to also satisfy our ever-hungry doggie whose keen sniffer tracked down every kernel.

White popping corn -- popped in lard or butter, add some salt, no butter added please.... 
With bowls of popcorn in hand, dad and I climbed upstairs to where the tv was in our old, old house. Our television stood near my mom's bedroom door. We had a tv similar to the small stand-alone in the picture above. Our couch was across the room maybe 7 feet from the tv -- you just didn't sit close. Mom's bedside lamp was usually on when we came up at game time; she would be reading in bed. When the game finally got to her, mom's bedroom door would get closed, but we could still see under the door that her light was still on and probably still reading; she didn't like hockey games.

Mom would insist I go to bed early especially when there was school the next day. Dad would defend my staying up to watch the game. We usually stalled the inevitable. He knew mom would be sleeping soon and never know what time I really went to bed. So we would just keep watching the game and eating popcorn.

I really enjoyed learning about the game from my dad; I watched Bobby Hull play as a rookie. Even now when I see some nostalgic images of the young rookie, I can hear my dad explain why Bobby used a slap shot and how effective it was. I can still see the "Golden Jet" race up the ice then shoot a defenseless goalie. I remember the goalies not wearing masks -- how daring they were. No one wore helmets either. Quite a change from the equipment players wear now. Those were good times.

All that game bonding was great, but the best thing about those times together in front of the "tube" was when dad would tell me to stay quiet and not make any noises or sudden moves. Then he would throw a kernel towards the TV; he was smiling all the time he did it. Eventually a little gray mouse with a cute pinky nose would come out from behind the tv, look right at me and scamper towards the kernels, one by one he would grab one and dash back behind the television until he cleared any evidence of dad's indiscretion.

Time and again, that little mouse would come back and sit at the back corner of the tv and wait until a kernel was thrown to him. He and dad seemed to be old friends. He wasn't afraid to venture out a little ways to grab it either. After all, this was a game for the both of them!

Dad would give a little snicker. There was a twinkle in his eye as he put his finger to his mouth, "shhhh...don't say a thing to your mother!" And he'd toss another kernel across the room. This would go on for quite a while. It was really fun to watch, almost more than the hockey game. I didn't want to go to bed either!

I'm not sure what mom would have done if she knew what dad was doing with the mouse. Mom did get sort of a kick out of the story when she heard me tell it some 20 years later.

I find it fascinating how the smallest thing can spark such a crazy memory. .

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