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John-Boy reflects on good life

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Last winter, our family decided to select a television series to watch during the long, chilly evenings that are commonplace in this God-forsaken tundra during the Cold Months. We had just purchased a new television, and were eager to give it a test-run.

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The only problem with this idea was that we couldn't decide on which show to watch. My dad suggested The Twilight Zone, but that proposal was quickly shot down because it just seemed like too much of a shame to watch a fuzzy black-and-white show, no matter how artistically superior, on a new high definition television screen. Our TV deserved better than that.

Next, my mom mentioned her childhood favorite, The Comedy Hour with Sonny and Cher, to which everyone responded with a united "don't think so!"

My oldest brother, when asked what he wanted to watch, simply said "football," and we decided to no longer include him in this discussion. The purpose of evening "TV time," at least as we envisioned it, was to relax and unwind, not put ourselves through the intense levels of stress and unrewarded anticipation that only a Vikings game can provide.

Lastly, I suggested The Partridge Family, thinking that my parents would be impressed by my choosing a show with such wholesome values, first-rate music and practical application to a normal person's day-to-day life.

They weren't, and, instead of commending me for my wise choice like I had sort of hoped, only looked at me with a strange blank stare, utterly silent, for a long period of time. Sensing awkwardness, I left the room and decided to let my parents make the decision on their own.

The next day, my parents retired into their bedroom promising that when they emerged, "the decision will have been made." I knew their choice would be difficult, given the age span and various interests of our family members. The rest of us waited tensely in the living room for them to come out and break the news.

Some of us tried to distract ourselves with glossy magazines, while others simply stared down at our shaking feet. Just when the tension threatened to manifest itself in a community nervous breakdown, my mother walked into the room, clearly suppressing a smile. "It's The Waltons," she said, and all became silent.

My brothers and I looked at each other blankly. Somebody coughed, and somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. But other than that, all was silent and still. This went on for several minutes until I finally took the initiative and asked the question we'd all been thinking, "Who are the Waltons?"

We soon found out. Boy, did we ever.

In fact, nine months and five seasons later, it is probably safe to say that we all know more about The Waltons than anyone should know about any family, including his own. It's a bit scary, actually. Even weirder, after observing the habits and personalities of the Walton clan, we've begun to assign everyone in our family a respective Walton that most represents the said Kitzmann.

Of course, I'm John-Boy, the oldest brother who continually guides his younger siblings in the Way of the Truth and thinks he's a writer. My dad "is" John, the wise and manly father. My eldest brother identifies with Jason, the mellow musician who plays the guitar, entertains in local bars and drinks... Well, the parallels go only so far.

True, we tend to compare our families. However, besides observing the similarities between the two families, we've also noticed a parallel between the world that The Waltons inhabit and our own, especially when it comes to economic times.

Who would have known that, a matter of months after we began watching The Waltons -- in which a Virginia family survives the Great Depression -- America saw its economy plummet to depths few people have ever seen before? The coincidence is somewhat troubling, yes, but also strangely comforting.

The Walton family, like us, lived in the midst of some very hard times, but theirs were much harder. While my gift-count at Christmas may be reduced this year, the Walton children scrimped and saved for two weeks to buy their oldest sister an $8 wedding present.

While I may only eat my dad's legendary "pulled bambito under saboogoo" one or two times a month rather than the usual three or four, the Waltons wondered how they were going to put food on the table, period. And finally, while I sit and complain about the miserable and deprived life I lead, the Waltons were hardly ever negative. They couldn't afford to be.

Nothing more ironically contrasts the difference between our respective standards of life, no matter how similar they may seem at times, than the very television on which we watch the show -- a large flat-screen that sits perched like a god directly above a game cabinet in the living room.

Every time I watch an episode of The Waltons, this television reminds me just how fortunate we, as a society, really are. Most of, including me, have little room to complain; times have been worse.

At the beginning of each episode, a grown John-Boy reflects back on his years on Walton's Mountain and reminds us that although they lived through one of the most trying times in American History and in very economically difficult circumstances, what they remember of their childhood are the things they had: a strong sense of community and love of family; not the material possessions they lacked. Good choice, Mom and Dad.

Nathan Kitzmann is a sophomore at Detroit Lakes High School.

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