When I was a kid, I watched a show called Wonderama, hosted by Bob McAllister. Honestly I don’t remember much about it—except the theme song, Kids Are People, Too, whackadoo whackadoo whackadoo.
Zoom was the cooler counterpart to Wonderama; the content was made almost entirely by kids. It was even hosted by kids. No grown up guy with sideburns and slacks walking around with a microphone…no, Zoom kids were empowered,
Its theme song went, Come on and Zoom Zoom Zoom a Zoom, Come on and Zooma Zooma Zooma Zoom. Come on give it a try, we gonna teach to you fly, high. Come and Zoom, Come on and Zoom a Zoom Zoom… At the end of the show, they’d ask kids to write in, singing the zip code, 0-2-1-3-4: send it to Zoom!”
I never watched Zoom, it sounded like they were having a kind of fun I felt left out of, and feeling excluded, I decided it was stupid, come on and zoom? What does that even mean, to zoom? It’s almost as if we’ve been waiting all these years to find out.
Whenever someone mentions Zoom these days, I think of those kids. It helps to think about attending a zoom meeting if you believe that at any moment there might be a musical number, or everyone might start flying about their respective spaces, making airplane sounds.
Of course, the way a Zoom meeting looks reminds me of the opening of The Brady Bunch, the iconic TV show about a lovely lady, bringing up three very lovely girls, and a man named Brady who was single and had three boys of his own…they get married and they all move into a big house in the Valley and the rest is television history.
I talked to a friend of mine this week, he lives here in Woodstock, he and his partner have a set-up remarkably similar to the Brady Bunch—the main difference is he’s got three girls and she has three boys. But, he was a widower, she was in the midst of a divorce and they got together. When all this broke out, one of the girls had been away at boarding school, the oldest boy was in his freshman year of college in the city. All that is over now. When I asked my friend how it was going he chuckled…”well, there are now 8 people living in this house…all the time.” Sounded less sitcom and more crime procedural.
“Does everyone have school everyday?” I asked.
He paused then said, “In theory.”
“And are there big family meals?” This idea excited me.
“Chris,” he said, not quite exasperated, “it’s not really like that. Everyone is upset. It’s hard to have to tell a 12 year old that the only thing she cares about in the whole world, her summer camp, where she has friends and feels seen and understood, the thing she looks forward to all year long, is cancelled.”
The other thing that Zoom visually recalls is the Hollywood Squares…I loved those 70s game shows with funny, older people being naughty, always seeming a little bit drunk. Paul Lynde, the heroic and hysterical gay comedian, was always there in the center square. My dad would just howl at Paul Lynde, who often said things I didn’t quite get. I swear to you, several years later, my dad’s love of Paul Lynde gave me a bit of courage whenever I thought about coming out to him…well, he loves Paul Lynde, maybe this won’t go badly. Still, I couldn’t do it.
On that terrible day when I was pulled out of the closet by my mom, and my family home exploded in screaming and tears. I ran into my old bedroom and started packing. I had an apartment in LA by then, where I would soon retreat for months and months, not speaking to my parents until the dust settled, whatever that meant. Really I just waited until we all decided that now that the news of my sexuality had been aired it could go away, not get talked about, not be accepted, really, known but not known. The news was allowed to sink to the murk beneath our family.
There, in my old bedroom, I was trying to gather my things and cram them in my bag--focus on packing, my survival brain thought. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t really catch my breath but I kept packing, one item at a time. I just knew that I had to leave, as quickly as possible. It wasn’t safe—I don’t mean physically safe; but the emotions, that’s what was scary in our house and I was unequipped to negotiate the terrifying terrain of shame and blame and disappointment. My dad came in; for someone who was also unequipped for those negotiations, I know now how much strength this must have taken…”I don’t understand,” he said, “But you’ll always have a home.”
These days my mind moves so quickly around, into the past, to old regrets, things I should have done or said, people I should have apologized to. It’s as if being stuck in one place physically has loosed my consciousness, I never know what it will land on. These daily shows help me focus. Like packing my bag years ago, I pick tasks I know I can accomplish.
These days are too big and scary, too wide open with uncertainty and the camera of my mind wants to swing widely. Close up, I think, get closer, fix your gaze on something and just hold on it until you get your bearings.
It’s funny: the word zoom, meaning to go fast, was popularized by aviators in the early 20th century. In the 1930s, the zoom lens was developed, and the camera could suddenly "quickly move closer." My dad was a pilot and an amateur photographer, maybe there was something in him that knew to move quickly into my bedroom, to get closer and offer me something I could hold onto forever.