That Was Us…Then

I am a big fan of This Is Us, the new heartwarming drama on NBC. The show, still in its first season, is about the family lives of several people who share the same birthday. It’s told in a time-hopping fashion, jumping from the 1980’s to present day. Rebecca and Jack (played flawlessly, in my opinion, by Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia) are a young couple raising a family in the 80’s and the story of fraternal twins and an adopted brother continues in 2016.

I think one of the reasons I love it so much, in addition to the endearing characters and humorous, emotional storylines, is that the part of the show that takes place in the 1980’s reminds me of times that I loved and miss.

This past Tuesday, the entire episode took place in 1980. It was Jack’s birthday and his wife, Rebecca was extremely pregnant with triplets. My son happened to be in the den with me, working on his laptop as I watched a scene where the couple was upstairs in their new home when their telephone rang. Jack ran downstairs to answer it in the kitchen.

I turned to my son, who was watching.

“Back then, phones were attached to walls,” I told him. “You could walk only as far as the length of the cord. It was not smart. It had one sole purpose.”

He kept watching.

“You had no idea who was calling until you answered and if someone called the house while you were on the phone, they got a busy signal and hung up. You missed the call.”

He looked at me.

“I know,” I said. “Barbaric.”

It was a beautiful episode, it always is, with poignant sides stories involving the delivering doctor and a policeman, but I won’t give too much away. The hour culminated with the birth of the babies, the euphoria and  devastation that Rebecca and Jack experienced.

The final scene showed Jack, Rebecca and their children, at ten years old, watching home movies of the day they were born.

“We used to watch home movies exactly like that,” I told my son who had returned to his laptop. “The films had no sound, you know.” He brought his attention back to the TV to see what I was rambling about. I smiled to myself remembering how my brother and I watched the choppy, silent snippets of our lives while our parents tried to fill in the details. When the screen turned white and the spool let go in a clattered release, we rushed my father, in our delicious anticipation to see more, as he struggled to set up the next film. On and on we’d go until the last reel was wound.

Good times.

“You know,” I continued, “in the ’80’s, when we took pictures with a camera we had to wait for days to get the film developed. Yep, three days to find out your head was cut off or your eyes were closed.”

My son leaned forward and closed his laptop. “I don’t understand,” he said, pointing to the TV. “Who are the kids watching the home movies?”

“Those are the children that were born in the previous scene.”

“Who are the adults they keep showing on the coming attractions for next week?”

I explained. Then added: “The story takes place in 2016 with flashbacks to the 80’s so the viewer gets a full picture of the relationships between all of these people.”

He thought about it. “Good show,” he said. “I have to do some research.” Then he stood, holding his laptop and left the room.

Yes, it is.

Emotionally depleted, as I usually am on Tuesday nights, I pulled myself from the couch. “Hey Zach! Let me tell you about Encyclopedias…”