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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Stranger In The House

By Bobbie Hart O’Neill CSMS Magazine staff writer “A few months after I was born my dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the very beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was welcomed quite easily around town.             As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. Mum taught me to love the Word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries, and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening. He was like a friend to the whole family.             He took Dad, Bill, and me to our first major league baseball game and he was always encouraging us to see movies and even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars.             The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind, but sometimes Mum would quietly get up (while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places ) leave the room, and go to her bedroom; read her Bible, and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.             You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house – not from u s, from our friends, or adults. But our long-time visitor used occasional four letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted.             My Dad was a tea-totter who didn’t permit alcohol in his home – not even for cooking, but the stranger felt like we needed exposure, and enlightened us to other ways of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and always pretty embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationships were strongly influenced by the stranger.             As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us more. I really think mother was praying for us, as time after time he opposed the values of my parents, yet was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.             More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family on Morningside Drive. But if I were to walk into my parents’ living room today, you would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures. His name?… We always just called him T.V.”             For some time now, I have been wondering how to express my feelings about TV. It started out in the 1950’s as an entertainment and educational tool welcomed by everyone. See what it has become today: A friend to senior citizens; mom’s baby sitter; dad’s front row seat to sports events; the invalid’s eyes to the world; sculptor of impressionable young minds; and window to everything that is good, bad and ugly on earth and sometimes outer space.             I have no idea who the author of this clever, moralistic tale may be, but he/she has really gotten it together! I saw the stranger as a worldly-wise, con man who wormed his way into the family home. My daughter-in-law saw him as the devil. My imaginative young artist friend thought he was a genie. What did you see? About the author: Bobbie Hart O’Neill is a retired print media journalist, CSU-Sacramento, 74, with 40 years experience in the field. She has worked as a reporter, feature writer, columnist, public relations writer, magazine/newsletter editor and publisher. She has published a children’s book, written three screenplays and a novel. In addition, she is interested in civic affairs, politics, current events, ethnology and animals.

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