Two For One

We were getting something new in our neighborhood that year.  It was called “Cable Television”.

My great aunt and uncle in Grand Rapids had had cable for years.  The extra channels were delivered seemingly through a brown box that sat on the top of their set in the den.   The box had the letters A through Z on it, and you moved a slider to indicate what channel you wanted to view.  Everyone remarked on the clarity of the channels.  They were able to watch WGN from Chicago and another from Atlanta.  We all couldn’t wait to try out the cable TV every time we went to Grand Rapids.

We were thrilled to finally be getting the cable TV.   One hot summer day, the final touches were put on our development’s lines, and we got our very own cable box.  A small hole was drilled into the wall to let the thick, black cable that carried the signal into our home.

The box was very different than my aunt and  uncle’s, with numbers instead of letters.  My mother signed us up for the package that included the movie channel, Home Box Office.  We couldn’t believe that you could watch movies sitting in your living room with the help of this magical box.  It was like nothing we’d ever experienced before.   Suddenly, we all wanted to be home to watch TV.  It wasn’t long before we discovered Music Television, which had launched the year before.

Unfortunately for us, something else came into the house with the cable television.   Not too long after the hole was put in the wall for the cable, we found some small insects in the kitchen.  They were small and brown with a light brown spot in the middle.  I just squashed them with my thumb.  But they got bigger.  One evening when I went into the kitchen for a drink after dinner, I turned on the lights and found them scattering on the kitchen counter.  Big, brown, and winged; the cockroaches were making a slippery, silvery noise as they rushed away from the light.

It took months before my mother finally realized the extent of what was going on with the roaches.  I complained to her that they were getting into the areas where we kept the food, and that they were nasty and disgusting.  Finally, one day when my mother was cooking a weekend dinner, she had enough and resolved to call the exterminators.  Meanwhile, it took several more months before the unwelcome guests were eradicated.

I loved my MTV, but I hated the roaches.  I didn’t know anyone else who had cockroaches in their homes.  I felt nasty, dirty and violated when they entered our home.  I have never forgotten the helpless fear I would have upon walking into the kitchen at night.


One Response

  1. when my parents first came over to australia from vietnam we had to live in the local commission flats, which were horribly dirty and disgusting. we moved out when i was quite young but id go back throughout my childhood to visit my relatives.

    i remember sneaking into the kitchen to check the fridge for food and finding nothing but a open tub of margarine absolutely covered with roaches. they were everywhere, in neat rows along the wall, scattered across the benchtops. i was only little and examined these little creatures with curiosity. my older sister screamed and screamed. my mother said to be quiet and not to be rude to my uncle.

    my uncle claimed a cockroach had climbed into his ear once and come out his nose. i believed him. i was only little.

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