She heard a robotic voice, somehow reminiscent of the 1980s, echoing up the stairs, possibly from the living room. She poked her head out of the sewing room to listen.
“What the heck is that? What are you doing down there?” she yelled down to him.
“Seriously! What the heck is that voice? It sounds like a robot.”
She waited for an answer, but he stayed silent. It was just her and the strange robot.
She had enough and dropped the fabric she was sewing onto the chair. “That’s it, I’m coming down there!” She was smiling now.
“If that’s what I think it is you’re in big trouble, mister!”
“U” She jumped to skip the last few steps and slid a little on the hardwood floor because of her socks. As she grabbed the bannister and slid around it she had a view of the love seat across the room where he was sitting with a giant, sly grin on his face and a red machine of some sort on his lap.
“You didn’t!” she yelled as she ran across and jumped onto the love seat and hugged him.
“Like it? I found it at a yard sale down the street while you were sewing. Still works!”
She went to hug him again but instead, as he prepared for the love, she snatched the machine from his hands.
“I love Speak & Spell! I had this as a kid! I’m playing.” First she ran her fingers across the multi-colored keyboard, then across the words Texas Instruments. She giggled at the little icon that included the state of Texas in the corner. Her finger landed on the Go button and it spoke in a monotone voice. “Spell-through.”
“How do you know which through it is?” he asked her.
“Hell if I know. This thing is thirty years old! I’m just guessing!”
She pushed the buttons and the robot spoke the letters as she hit them.
“T-H-R-O-U-G-H- that is correct. Now spell, love.”
She smiled and started again.
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“Everything I needed to learn about being a good person I learned from 80s cartoons.”
“Really,” she responded with obvious dubiousness, one eyebrow raised and a sly grin on her face.
“Sure. G.I. Joe taught me to resolve my arguments with peace. And not to talk to strangers. And any other number of lessons. They had public service announcements after each episode. I learned from Slimer and the Ninja Turtles, Mickey Mouse and everyone else to say no to drugs thanks to Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue. I learned to treat my family right and to be good to people in general thanks to the television shows I watched.”
“Of course! They were the kindest most congenial beings ever created. I can’t even watch them now…they’re so pure. It makes me sick.”
She laughed. “Okay what about He-Man? What could you possibly learn from him?”
“Are you kidding? Orko always caused some sort of trouble that I learned from. Don’t eavesdrop, don’t meddle, etc. That show had lessons after it just like G.I. Joe.”
“Okay, what about your precious Transformers? What could you possibly learn from them?”
“Seriously? They taught me the importance of doing the right thing, being a good guy instead of a Decepticon. Come on. Optimus Prime showed wisdom in every choice he made. I learned what a great leader possesses.”
She shook her head. “You’re ridiculous. Bugs Bunny?”
“That wasn’t 1980s, although I did watch it.”
“So what did you learn?”
“Not to fuck with a road runner? I dunno. That technically was the 70s and doesn’t count. The 80s were all about purity. Learning lessons. Being a good person. If I didn’t know better, I would think Humanists were running children’s programming.”
“Snorks? Centurions? Biskits? Shirt Tales?”
“Are you kidding me? You have got to be kidding. Snorks were practically an offshoot of Smurfs. Same comments apply. And the others? Trust me, every 80s cartoon was about teaching kids right from wrong.”
She looked at me across the table with pure seriousness.
“So you’re saying you don’t think kids need to go to church, so long as they watch 80s cartoons?”
“When did our bookshelf become all Rainbow Connection?”
She looked up from her copy of Dave Egger’s You Shall Know Our Velocity and shifted her weight in her favorite reading spot, the moon chair they’d bought at Urban a few years before.
“I found it in my parents’ attic! Can you believe it? Really brings me back.”
He picked up the vintage Kermit and made it wave at her. She smiled.
Kermit’s hand got stuck on his sweater and he had to pull it off. “What the…he has Velcro on his hands!”
“And feet!” she added. “Neat huh? He used to hang from my doorknob as a kid. He guarded it so monsters wouldn’t get me.”
He laughed and started propping the doll on the shelf with his back blocking her view.
“Don’t make him do anything perverted!”
After a quick dirty look, he went back to work. “Come on, I have the utmost respect for Muppets.”
She relaxed a bit in the chair. “You don’t understand, Kermit was my favorite. My dad gave him to me before he…left. I cried more tears into that toy than anything else I own. My dad used to sing Muppet songs to me. The show theme song or Mahna-Mahna when I was down, Rainbow Connection before bed.”
He turned and joined her in the chair for a hug.
“Check him out!” he said with a huge smile, clearly proud of himself.
She looked over to see Kermit sitting with his legs crossed and his hands folded on his lap.