My parents, back in the late 70s and during the time of the Purple People Eaters (the Minnesota Viking’s defensive line) hosted a number of Super Bowl parties.
The Vikings, by the way, have managed to play in quite a few Super Bowls but they have never managed to win one.
It was to one of these parties that my Aunt Pat and Uncle Mark brought their three kids, the youngest being Eric. Cousin Eric was, and is, a funny and deadpan person. At the age of four, however, he was primarily inclined toward running small toy cars up and over things.
“Vroom vroom vroom,” Eric ran the little car up and around the TV set, which in accordance with the times, was a large piece of furniture the size of a polished wooden Volvo.
As an aside, this will come as a surprise to some of you younger folk, but during my childhood, there was no remote control for the television, at least not as we know it today. “Remotes” back then were called “children”; and if you wanted to turn the volume in any direction you had only to give the command and the nearest child was required, by unwritten law, to do your bidding.
There was also no such thing as cable – at least not where we were from. It was a horrid, mean existence. Not many of us lived.
The little boy ran the car up and down the sides of the TV, and despite his mother's insistence that he "come away from there, Eric", he repeatedly found himself unable to comply for long. Sure, he'd step away. Eric wasn't a bad boy. But he always returned, his willpower drained by the pull of wheels, the pull of the TV screen that had everyone's attention.
My father, a man not particularly long-suited in patience, took as much as he could of Eric running that little red car perilously close to the television screen on Super Bowl Sunday and finally asked him, “Eric, how would you like to eat that car?”
Eric stopped what he was doing and considered it. Blinking solemnly he said, “I would not like to eat this car. But I would like to lick it.”
Even at four, Eric had it.
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