I didn’t watch Saturday morning cartoons.
It wasn’t from lack of interest or want of trying. I was as much a fan of Silly Symphonies as the next kid. The idea of curling up in front of a TV set with a bowl of cereal and all the time in the world sounded (and sounds) so appealing…and yet…
Because here’s the thing: I was raised in a conservative Jewish household. We didn’t keep kosher, per se, but we did attend Friday night and Saturday morning services on a regular basis. I had almost all the Hebrew prayers memorized by the time I was nine. Like most children of religion, I didn’t understand the prayers very well – but I could recite them.
By age 11, I was co-leading Junior Congregation. It was my responsibility to make sure that the service went well for the twenty or so other kids in our mini-sanctuary and I took my responsibility very seriously. Were there times that I wished I was at home watching Scooby-Doo? Oh God yes. But the choice wasn’t mine, and I accepted as well as any 11 year-old could.
To be sure, after Junior Congregation was over and we returned home, I went straight for the TV and spent the next few hours drooling in front of its colored lights. My TV show of choice was almost always the Creature Double Feature…but I’ve already written at length about that little obsession.
Once I became a bar mitzvah, my parents eased their mandate on my attending services. I still went, now and then, but more often than not I began to spend my Saturday mornings in my pajamas rather than a suit. I watched reruns. I watched Siskel & Ebert. I watched Casey Kasem’s Top 10 Countdown. I watched Saved by the Bell. I read.
It’s easy for me to look back at those years, especially through the lens of my current agnosticism, with regret for what I missed. After all, Junior Congregation was the reason I couldn’t join Little League (or at least that’s the excuse my father gave me, although I suspect the real reason has something to do with my physical limitations). On the other hand, though, I truly believe that every experience is important, and this cartoon-deprived experience has helped carve out the ill-adjusted human malapropism whose words you just read.