In the hours after porch lights had dimmed and trick-or-treaters dragged buckets laden with candy home, a group of friends and I were winding down from the excitement.
As these things happen, one topic led to another until we were winding down trails we’d never intended to venture. This is how I found myself sharing some of my favorite, country music videos — you know the ones from the late ’80s and early ’90s that were more like short (cheesy) movies.
The group came to the conclusion — that is often the case — that growing up in rural Nevada has made me a little weird.
I set them straight, however, that these videos weren’t really a product of my upbringing. In fact, we didn’t even get television reception.
Instead, any exposure we had to TV or movies — any popular culture, really — was directly due to my mom’s friend Nancy Shannon.
Lifelong friends, Nancy and my mom had gone to school together in Albuquerque, N.M. I think it was at a high school reunion that Mom mentioned our lack of television.
This would not do, Nancy concluded.
So she started recording movies for us. But it didn’t stop there.
She also recorded television series and music videos and award shows.
But it didn’t stop there, either.
She would pause the recording during the commercials, so the shows would run continuously — like the original Netflix.
Once a month, we would get a box of video tapes, each labeled with the movies of TV shows. On the right hand side, she’d place a colored sticker indicating whether the content was intended for Mom — usually old movies; Dad — Westerns; Big Girls — teen movies; or Little Girls — cartoons and Nickelodeon programs.
Occasionally, one would be labeled, “Ask Mom First.” Those accompanied movies like, “Dirty Dancing,” and we’d wait until our parents went to bed to watch those….
Nancy would also edit for content, pausing during any elicit scenes. Even now, I’ll watch a movie and be shocked to discover it contains nudity or vulgarity because it wasn’t in the movie we saw.
As you can imagine, the UPS truck was a celebrated moment in our house. Actually, it was celebrated throughout the valley.
We loaned the tapes out to “neighbors” up to 60 miles or more in any direction — like the original Blockbuster.
I’m not sure in explaining all of this if I managed to make myself appear more normal or weirder than ever.
But it did make me pause, again, in gratitude for my mom’s friend. There was nothing in any of this for her. It was purely a service she provided. For years.
She was meticulous, thorough, consistent and thoughtful. Although I was extremely grateful for her at the time, I am profoundly moved by her generosity looking back.
As we move into the season of Thanksgiving, I am resolved to recognize more of the kindness in the world.
Even more, I hope to emulate people like Nancy who give seemingly effortlessly and with such grace.
I am grateful.