On Saturday morning, the TV would go on. Roy Rogers, Sky King, Captain Gallant. I loved them all. I learned how my heroes talked to people. “Please. Thank you, sir. Yes, ma’am.” Television was more than just my babysitter or buddy. It shaped my life in ways hard to explain.
The subtlety of its collective message dawned on me in adulthood. Keeping your word, protecting women and children, honesty, integrity and, above all, respect were iron principles. Even Fury and Lassie were treated with respect. Hokey or not, I emulated my heroes.
My all-time favorite show wasThe Adventures of Superman. Lois Lane was my first girlfriend, adventure partner, confidante and love of my little life. I rescued her a thousand times with my action figures, in front of the set. I knew I was hot stuff because I could put a towel around my neck and jump from my chest of drawers to my bed. I was in midair for at least a second.
While working in Manhattan a few years ago, I read that one of the actresses who portrayed Lois, Noel Neill, was appearing at a nostalgia show around the corner from my job. I cut work and got there early.
My heart started pounding. There she was, 85 years old and still drop-dead gorgeous with a light-up-the-room smile.
“Oooh, you’re nice and warm,” she said as she shook my hand.
Was she cold? I asked and sat holding her hands for the next 20 minutes. We talked about her travels to Katmandu, mine to India and how she loves collecting knickknacks from all over the world. Her glass-blue eyes were beautiful.
People started to fill the room. We stood and I pulled her hands close to my chest. Then, while wishing her good health, she allowed me to kiss her goodbye.
I had tears in my eyes walking out of the building. I had one thought. What else could have allowed me to welcome the woman I loved into my home, year after year? Then, to be able to give her a little hug and kiss, sincerely thanking her for all the enjoyment she gave me, 50 years later?
Television. A box with lights.
Was that ever icing on the rabbit ears!
The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online.Steven Romano is a reader from Brooklyn, N.Y.