6 o’clock in the evening.
The full moon is in the sky.
The courtyard is filled with people. Mostly children.
A man comes with a small bag of sugar in the hand.
Another man follows right behind carrying a bag full of beans.
A woman and her children walk into the courtyard. The children are singing out loud.
A few older people are preparing a big tray of dinner for the whole neighbourhood.
Sugar and beans are for the tonight’s dessert – a traditional sweet bean soup…
Mom stopped for a while. She smiled. Memories came back like sea waves on a windy day. She was telling me about her childhood, the most beautiful time of her life. I (because of curiosity, and also because of this week blog post topic for the subject is about TV memories), have intentionally asked her about those early days when she had watched TV for the very first time. She laughed quite hard at first, but then stopped and threw her look into space – a slightly pained look. “It’s fun you know, …”, Mom told me, “…having a TV to watch our (my Mom and her friends’) favourite cartoon. But we later have to pay such a painful price for having a TV, sometimes it can be the deaths of other people we love…”.
The South of Vietnam.
The Vietnam War against the Americans had just ended for a few years.
TV was the most luxurious thing people could have at that time. Among a neighbourhood that consisted of more than a hundred families, there were only 2 or 3 of them that actually owned a TV. They would later leave the TVs in their courtyards for others to come and watch. TV back then was a small thick black box with a black and white scene. Our country during this historical period did not run an open trading system, this was why TV channels were all about the current national government. Channels were broadcasted by the government. Some of them were for propagandizing the Vietnam’s revolution and praising the current communist government that had fight for the country’s independence. Popular programs included cartoons for children and communist documentaries or traditional soap opera for the elders.
Watching TV at that time was not easy, if not saying it was extremely dangerous. Accidents occurred all the time because of the need to adjust the device. There would be a long antenna placed on the roof of the house which was used to change the channels. People used wooden ladders to climbed up the roof and adjusted this antenna as it was the only way to pick up the desired channel. That was why there were people who fell off the ladder and died. Others died because of electric shock during bad weathers. And they died a lot just because of switching the TV channels, which was the most painful thing people have to face having a TV.
“But we did have a lot of fun every time watching TV”, Mom continued, “…it was around 6 o’clock in the evening and the full moon was shining in the sky…”
The children came first to watch their early favourite cartoon. The TV was placed in the middle of an enormous courtyard which is enough for a hundred people. A few people were preparing the traditional sweet bean soup for tonight’s dessert which would be served during the village’s favourite program was shown. People when finishing their farm work would get home, take a shower and show up on time to wait for that night show. Some even rowed from the other side of the river to gather within the village to watch TV. They would bring the children with them and whenever it was too late and dark to get home, families would lay down their own mats (which they brought earlier to sit on and watch TV) and sleep until the next morning.
“That TV memory is, until now, still one of the best parts of my childhood memory. We have lots of TVs with tons of designs and functions now, but I will never forget how we have watched TV back then. It does remind me of a time when we have to live in poverty and lacking everything, but our souls and hearts are still very cheerful just by having a TV to connect to the world around and entertain our boring lives back then.” – Mom said while continuing with her unfinished soup.
Her lips drew a light smile that bright up the sunset sky.