Right before my fifth birthday my family picked up and moved to a new state and into a rental house in Colorado. It was a tight tri-level with two adjoining decks and an unfinished basement. The backyard was landscaped with basketball sized rocks that layed on a steep hill, rendering half of the back yard completely unusable and extremely prone to weeds. The front yard featured a few trees and my favorite: lava rocks.
“You mean this is real LAVA?” I showed everyone. It was a miracle and it was in my front yard.
If you were to visit our home you’d most likely find the kids in the basement. It was our play-land, fully stocked with boxes, toys, my large barbie house, and a silver 10ish inch dial antennae television. It didn’t pick up much but we really didn’t care. It meant we could watch America’s Funniest Videos in secret while we took turns holding the antennae and standing on one foot.
This was easily my favorite show. I know, the show still technically exists but it in no way represents what it was. It was the 90’s equivalent of YouTube with a goofy host and grand prizes. I would watch and laugh and then plot how to win the big moneys.
“Okay, so John just needs to walk through the kitchen and slip on that towel there! It’ll be hilarious. We’ll win for sure!” My plans typically involved my brother injuring himself. “Or you could ‘accidentally’ run into the screen door. That one’s a classic!”
My older siblings would roll their eyes and explain that it wouldn’t look real if we planned it.
Okay. Fine. Then we’d just have to film something organic. We’re kids. Stuff like that happens all the time.
Our video camera was given to us by my grandfather. It was a pretty nice camera for it’s time but it’s time had passed. It was roughly the size and weight of a retro computer monitor (I just realized I have nothing modern to compare it to. They just don’t make em bulky and monstrous anymore. Think 6 blu-ray players stacked on top of each other with the weight of a head sized rock. About like that.)
When the moment struck I’d clumsily whip out the oversized camera–and the fun would immediately screech to a halt. In my frustration I also realized this approach left me on the wrong side of the camera and out of the spotlight. We couldn’t have that.
So that’s when I started “hiding” it around the house attempting to capture moments of hilarity. I use “hiding” loosely because, unless you think large piles of clothing is normal on the window sill, couch, or dresser, you’d know something was up.
I knew this would work. I foresaw my doll house filled to the brim with new clothes, furniture, and more Ken boyfriends. We were going to be rich.
Imagine my surprise when there were no usable nuggets on the tape, just lots of people walking in and out of the room, instructions from Mom to set the table or do homework, and my family members inspecting (and chuckling at) the poorly hidden camera and pile of clothing.
I had met my match. Rather than mourn my failure, my five year old brain suddenly saw America’s Funniest Home Videos for what it was. Legendary.