Like Sands Through The Hourglass…
It was totally not my fault.
My sweet great aunties bear all the blame.
I was fifteen years old when my parents moved crosstown and I changed high schools. It was just under 2 miles from our new house to the school, so by a distance of about one block I did not qualify for the school bus. A public bus made the rounds though, and picked up everyone in our neighborhood for a small monthly fee.
Getting home was a bit more difficult. The city bus left the high school immediately after school got out at 2PM. So if you wanted to stay for a club or event, you were on your own. The two mile walk wasn’t too bad in good weather, so often I walked.
But there was another alternative. My father’s aunts – the sisters of my grandmother – lived not too far from the high school. And I could walk over there and my mother would pick me up when she left work at 3:30.
So once or twice a week I did that. I walked over to my aunts’ little house.
Lillian and Lora were the sweetest ladies in the world. And they were always happy to see me. And they would give me a cookie and a ginger ale.
But they did not allow conversation.
Not at that time of day.
I’d knock on the kitchen door, and Aunt Lil would let me in and she’d say,
“Hurry up. Come in quick. The STORIES are on.”
Yes, Aunt Lillian and Aunt Lora were addicted to the Soaps.
All 4-foot-nine of her (including her 4-foot-nine bosom) would hustle back to the living room, so as not to miss a word. The cookie would have to wait for a commercial.
I usually caught the end of Days Of Our Lives and a good part of Another World. The aunts informed me that they used to watch the stories on CBS but had switched over to NBC recently in protest to some terrible storyline, which was too upsetting to talk about. (I believe a contract dispute resulted in the untimely death of their favorite character). But now they thought Another World was absolutely the best of “The Stories” on “The TV” – as they always referred to it.
My aunts especially loved Another World’s triangle of Alice and Steve and Rachel. The best thing about Soaps is the clear-cut lines between good and evil. Alice was an angel. Rachel was a conniving bitch. My aunties loved them both. (By the way, Steve was a pompous ass – but my aunties didn’t share that opinion.)
I thought it was all rather silly. But then..
Well, you know.
On those days when I was on time for the bus, and got home about 2:20 – well, I might just happen to turn on Days Of Our Lives – just to, you know, not be so bored at Aunt Lil’s.
And if we had a fresh bag of potato chips, I just might forget to turn the TV off and catch a bit of Another World before my mother came home from work. Mom did not (and still does not) approve of The Stories.
Then I went off to College. I had a little 12-inch black-and-white set that sometimes allowed me to tune into a grainy version of something that I could almost see and sometimes hear. And although the girls in the dorm often watched on the big set in the common room, it was too embarrassing to be seen watching Soaps. (And besides, they liked The Guiding Light – object of my aunties’ wrath.)
So I gave it up.
But …well…. you know.
I finished school eventually (really eventually… I stayed as long as possible). And once in a while, I’d tune in to the stories on a sick day. A five-year absence is nothing in soap opera time. Mostly the characters were having the same conversation.
Then in the early 80s two remarkable things happened.
- Luke and Laura.
The Luke and Laura romance on General Hospital made soap operas cool. And I even switched for a year or two, so I’d have the right cred at the office.
And my God… VCRs! Videotape with a timer was like the miracle of the loaves and fishes to the soap opera world.
Did you know you could watch a whole week’s worth of Days Of Our Lives in about 75 minutes? Not only because you could fast-forward through every commercial, but also because you could skip all the storylines about boring old people and focus in on just your favorites. And even with your favorite characters, you could save about eleven minutes a week by fast-forwarding through all the long lingering looks.
And I continued to watched Days and Another World occasionally for more than 20 years. Finally, I had to admit that I had seen every star-crossed lover, dastardly villain, and incurable illness in every possible combination. And so many cases of amnesia and total facial plastic surgery that it was a miracle that any character ever knew who the other guy was.
And so, at about age 35, I gave up The Stories.
Besides, no one could ever give me a better story than 1981-82’s Day of Our Lives story of Tony and Renee.
Here (in my opinion) is the best soap storyline of all time:
Renee DuMonde comes to Salem to be with her sister, Lee. Over the course of a weird serial strangler plot (in which Days was able to kill off a lot of their less popular characters) Renee falls in love with young Tony DiMera, son of crime boss Stefano DiMera.
Lee tells her sister Renee over and over again to stay away from Tony and the DiMera family, but Renee was so in love. And Tony asks her to marry him.
Lee is distraught and runs away, but leaves a note for Renee, spilling her terrible secret.
Lee is not Renee’s sister after all. She is Renee’s mother. And Renee’s father – horror of horrors – is Stefano DiMera.
Tony is Renee’s brother! She cannot marry him.
She breaks it off, without explanation. Tony will not give up. After many, many episodes of “Why? Why? Why?” – Renee tells Tony the truth. They are brother and sister and they must part forever.
Renee, heartbroken and trying to get past her almost-incest, agrees to marry some other dude (who I don’t remember, but I think he was your standard obnoxious prick).
On the day of Renee and Prick’s wedding, Tony can hardly bear the pain. He ends up at the mental institutional where his own mother has been locked up for years. I think perhaps he had to track her down, because I remember being surprised he had a mother.
Anyway, Tony goes to the asylum and his mother tells him that his father Stefano had her committed years ago to punish her. She is not crazy, but locked up out of vengeance.
“But I had the last laugh,” says Tony’s mother. “I have my own revenge. Because I had a lover all that time ago. And Stefano is a fool. He is NOT your father!” (and she laughs maniacally)
Wait, wait! If Stefano is not Tony’s father, then he is not Renee’s brother. They are not related! He can marry her!
He races back (I remember a lot of running like Godzilla was right behind him, and sweat and dirt, but not sure how much of that is my own embellishment)… Tony runs to the church where Renee is marrying Dickface!
It’s too late!
Thanks, Aunt Lil and Aunt Lora. It was definitely worth 25 years of heavy organ music to watch such a super bad romance.