On Top of the Tee Vee Set

            spring 1999

      A while back I heard some people talking about odd things in their houses as they grew up, which got me to wondering what happened to some furnishings I recall from forty or so years back, the ones my Mom was proudest of, the things she kept on top of the television set.

Mom was inordinately proud of the great long clock, made in the shape of  - - I ain't making this up - -  the coach which hauled Queen Elizabeth from where ever she was to where ever she needed to be for her coronation.  Elizabeth was crowned back in the early fifties, and seems to me almost every house had one or more reminders of that event.  But this clock was a real piece of work.

Two feet long and five or six inches high,; it included half a dozen horses, with a finely worked metal chain serving as harness.  At the coach itself,; instead of doors and windows was the clock part, its round face no more than three or four inches in diameter.  It was a lot of busy  "stuff"  just to support one tiny little clock...  Had to be plugged in too because batteries in those days burnt out too fast.  I ain't got a clue where it might've come from, though something tells me Mom's brother Elmer might have got it for his sister.  I'm sure it cost considerable, and I can't imagine Mom splurging on something so  "beautiful"  for herself.  If Elmer encountered that clock whilst sporting a belly full of cheap Friday night whiskey I can imagine him bringing it to her.

Hell, maybe he even paid for it.  Who's to say?

I don't recall when the clock disappeared  (nor where it disappeared to, though I'm gonna ask Pop and my sister what they know about its fate)  but the next thing I recall on top of the tee vee  - - one a those big  "combinations,"  with a record player and radio stuck in the same big cabinet; from which me and my cousin Alvena waltzed to Lefty Frizell, Hank Williams and Patti Page 78s - -  was a black African leopard, slunk down in a sort of attack position, a very weird attack position because its belly curved around a set of candy dishes.  By today's standards that thing was hideous, but at the time I thought it was beautiful  (and I reckon my Mom did too).  It had green rhinestone eyes that sometimes seemed to glow in the dark, like real cat's eyes.  It wore a little chain collar too, and the fangs bared at whatever was about to get attacked were gold enameled.

For a couple of weeks before Christmas the dishes around which the panther's belly arched were filled with mixed nuts, still in the shell, with a nutcracker and set of four  "picks"  laid out with them.  My favorite was Brazil nuts, known by a very politically incorrect name, though I seldom got to eat any.  The coordination required to crack something so tough as a  "Brazil nut"  (does anybody else remember what those things were called, how easily words that are an obscenity today rolled off all our tongues?)  was altogether beyond me until I was well into my teens.  I tended to crush them in sudden explosions, nut-shrapnel scattering widely, and while I tried to heed parental admonitions to  "Make sure you find all them pieces of shell,"  a few chunks always eluded detection until somebody went traipsing around barefoot...

I got yelled at over loose Brazil shells almost as loudly as I got squawked at for smoking.

Other than Christmas there never was anything to eat in those candy dishes...  Elmer showed up one time with a whole bag of fake chocolates, pieces of brown molded rubber that looked just like fancy Fanny Farmer stuff.  Used to be a real hoot to watch an uninitiated somebody reach for a piece of candy...

By the time color tee vee came into my folks' house I was gone to the Navy, but the top of the new set was noticeable even without the set being turned on.  The new box was all television, no  "combination"  grandiosity, without room for two feet of clock or leopards slinking around candy dishes.  Pictures took their place, and given I was a much married man before coming to my senses as regards matrimony, it was interesting how Mom shuffled photos around  - - the ones on the walls too - -  so a  "new"  wife never encountered unwelcome images of an  "old"  one.

In that conversation the other day someone mentioned bronzed baby shoes..

We never had any of those.

Just odd clocks, green eyed leopards with gold fangs, and Mom's on-going game of  "Now you see her,  now you don't..."

And I hadn't thought in years of the top of the tee vee; didn't realize how large it loomed in memory.

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