Our college-age son moved back home last fall. To save money, he’d live in our guesthouse and commute to school.
Our “guesthouse” is actually just our garage. I renovated it years ago as an office, so there’s no cars or lawnmowers to deal with. There’s also no bathroom and not all that much heat. (There are, however, plenty of spiders. Also, I am not sure, but I think there is a raccoon living in the rafters.)
When my son moved in, though, he brought home his TV — a 46-inch flat screen. It was too big to go in the garage, he said, but would we mind if he put it in the living room?
I am not ashamed to say this: When I heard this news, I may have peed a little. For years, I have been lobbying my wife for a bigger TV. She and I have a fundamental difference when it comes to TVs in the living room. I would like to get the biggest set we can, and my wife would like to get the smallest, cheapest, most pathetic TV that you could find. She mourned when they stopped making black-and-white sets. As a result, we would compromise and have a TV that is too big for her taste and one that I have to squint at to see what’s going on. There are Amish families who, after dark and with the drapes closed, watch bigger sets than ours.
My wife was out when my son brought the set home and I helped him carry it through the front door. It looked monumentally big. We set it up next to our existing TV, and it looked like my son’s set had just given birth to a little baby TV. I quickly helped my son install it in the living room before my wife got home. It actually blocked the windows behind it and dominated everything else in our living room. It was a monstrosity. In short, it was perfect.
As my wife pulled into the driveway, I put on “Life of Pi” on demand. I didn’t like the movie all that much, but it had plenty of big-screen but gender-neutral special effects. As my wife came in the front door, I stretched out on the couch, a serene look on my face. She walked past the living room, then stopped, moon-walking back to the doorway to the living room. She dropped her purse, turned to me, held up her finger and started to say, “Oh no, you didn’t!” but I cut her off, with an “Oh yes, I did!”
“I didn’t buy it. He brought it home!” I said, pointing at my son. “It was fate!”
I almost had her.
“Just accept it, honey!” I pleaded. She sighed, and I knew I’d won.
All this fall, watching television was a battle of the sexes. Most shows were interrupted by constant interruptions, from me.
“Look! You can see every hair on his head!” “It’s like we’re right there in the stadium!” “Tell me that’s not a GREAT picture!” followed by my wife’s constant threats to go upstairs and watch her shows in our bedroom.
I didn’t care. I stared open-mouthed at shows I had no interest in actually watching. I watched an entire PBS show about how smart crows are (really, really smart). I actually sat through an entire episode of “Dancing With the Stars” without complaining. (To be fair, Lolo Jones is one of the few celebrities who gets better-looking in HD.) I am surprised that none of the neighbors called to complain about the lights emanating from our windows.
My oldest son called me, from Philadelphia, to let me know that he had just bought a big-screen TV for his new apartment. I nodded smugly. “Got 46 inches going on back at the homestead,” I said.
Then, this week, the hammer dropped. The onset of the polar vortex, the thermostat, spiders and scrambling noises from the ceiling got a little too much for my son. He was moving into the basement. My wife called me at work to tell me the bad (for me) news.
“You should know, he took his TV. He put our old set back into the living room,” she said.
I almost dropped the phone.
“It’s so small,” she said. “For a minute, I walked in the house and thought we’d been a victim of a robbery!”
You could hear my strangled cry of frustration for miles.
“I didn’t do it!” she said. “It’s just fate! Accept it, honey!”