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June 13, 2012 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Freedom and VCRs

The summers of my youth were spent outdoors…as kids, we’d much prefer to be outside in the world’s biggest playroom, rather than cooped up in our small bedrooms upstairs that were hotter than an oven during July anyway.  We were outside so much that in the evenings when we returned home, we were placed directly in the bathtub, our skin so dark that it was hard to say whether the dirt was ever fully removed or not.  When I think of the word freedom I think of those days…evenings when the air started to cool but the sun was still resting on top of the mountain, the skies behind us turning red and orange and purple, a breeze blowing our hair back.  Carli and I especially, we would lay in the grass and look at the clouds.  We put crayons in the street and hit behind bushes, waiting for a car to smoooooosh them down so we could collect the tiny pieces in order to make one HUGE crayon (we weren’t allowed to play with matches so we used the next safest alternative – moving vehicles).  We invented our own languages and worlds.

But every now and then, some unforeseeable wrench was thrown in our outdoor plans — Carli had to go visit her father.  Someone got the chicken pox.  It was just too stinking hot.  There were clouds of mosquitoes out.  These were the times when my brother and I begged our mother “Can we please, please, please, rent videos?

If my mother had $9.99 to spare, we would climb in the car (sans seatbelts of course) and drive several blocks to the newly-opened Blockbuster store.  This store was a magical, blue and yellow provider of fun and excitement. There were hundreds and hundreds of videos lining the shelves.  Of course we could never possibly watch them all, so we would choose very carefully.  The $9.99 price allowed us to choose three videos.  My brother and I got to pick one, and my mom and dad got to pick the other two.  We chose movies to rent solely by the covers, as we knew nothing of the preview in those ancient days of the early 80s.  We, as children, did not suffer a constant barrage of media, insisting that we rent this or buy that.  Sometimes we heard about movies by word of mouth, usually through friends who had older brothers and sisters (this is how we found out about Ghostbusters), but most of the time we had to place three or four videos next to each other and vote on which one looked to be the most exciting.

Yes, we called them videos.  This is because we had to play them in a video cassette recorder…the VCR.

Since no one actually owned a VCR (we heard that a doctor who lived up on the hill owned a VCR, but he didn’t have any kids so there was no way of knowing if this was true or not) we had to rent one.  VCR rental was included in the $9.99 three movie deal.  My mom would hand over a ten dollar bill to the Blockbuster cashier, sometimes muttering something about highway robbery under her breath, and we would pile back into the car and drive home.

If Dad was home, he would hook up the VCR to the TV.  If he wasn’t, we would wait for him to get home from work to hook up the VCR.  He removed the robotic-looking machine from it’s padded case and begin fiddling with wires and cables.  It looked very complicated, which was why Dad had to do it.  Mom would make the popcorn.  My brother and I would get in everybody’s way.  I don’t remember that part, but now that I have kids I am 100% certain that is what we did while we waited.

Finally it was movie night.  Rejoice!


The only movie that we rented that I actually remember was Adventures in Babysitting.  I remember because the lady at Blockbuster said it was very funny and good for kids.  But the word boobs was said in the first ten minutes of the movie, and then we got in trouble for picking it out.  Sigh.  Kids those days.  Luckily, the lady at Blockbuster was blamed, and our dad allowed us to finish the movie.


Today I have 250 channels and HBO (for True Blood) and there is never anything on.


The kids and I play outside a lot now that it’s summer, though.  When they are a little older, I will let them outside to ride their bikes with friends.  I’m afraid I am not going to be brave enough in this world to let them out alone…not until they are much older.  I hope that even though they will have more supervision than I did, and though they will always have instant gratification with entertainment, never having to wait for Dad to set up the VCR…I hope that they will look back on their childhoods someday and remember the joys of a warm summer afternoon.



Leave a Comment
  1. fawnahareo / Jun 13 2012 9:28 am

    I love your trips down memory lane.

  2. Maximus / Jun 13 2012 8:55 am

    Oh yea, we spent our summers sneaking through the woods in rural Idaho to jobs sites to snake some scrap wood for our tree forts. Then we’d laze around in them all summer, coming home as the day ended.

    Good read as always Maleesha!

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