Changing Times– The Olympics

I’m sure I will not be the only person blogging about the Olympics tonight, nor will I be the only person linking various games to parts of their lives.  Watching the olympics has a rich tradition in my home, but the first that I can actually remember sitting down to watch with my family are the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway.

I remember Mom and Dad pulling both Jackie and I into their bedroom for the opening ceremonies.  Mom made it special and we had popcorn and other things to eat.  It was almost like going to the theatre. In the commercials Jackie and I talked with Mom and Dad about what we were seeing, and it’s funny that I remember these games and not the games when I was 9 years old just two years prior because those were the first games to be held in my lifetime where someone had not either been banned or boycotted the games.  The Berlin wall had just fallen.  The USSR had just disintegrated, and the world had started to assume the shape it has today. I did not know it at the time– 11 years old as I was– but the Olympics would fall for the next few cycles around major changes in my life, which is how, I believe, it happens for most teenagers because life changes are what the teen years are about… Though perhaps not quite like mine.

The summer olympics of 1996 were very special for reasons both good and bad.  Mom, Jackie and I were alone in the house while Dad went on a tour with the  DCI Cavaliers to help his oldest daughter Deb while she chaperoned her son, Dan through one of his tours with that ensemble.   We tape recorded the olympics for him, and I was at the helm (so to speak) watching all the events he loved, and getting the opening ceremonies so that he could watch them all without commercials.  This was, perhaps, the first time that I was forced to realize how much advertising there is on TV.  I watched the US women’s gymnastics team vault their way into history.  It was the first time I became openly fascinated with culture as I remember keenly how each opening ceremonies brings opportunities for these countries to play Master Signifier on stage that plays before the entire world.  Perhaps my career was determined then.

Shortly after coming home, however, Dad had his first heart-attack in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t know it then, but it was the last summer games he would live to see as he died in the summer of 1998.

The year 2000 saw me once again on the sofa with Mom while we watched the games from our apartment in Kenosha.  The house where we had watched the games in Lillehammer had been sold because she couldn’t bear to live in the home she had made with her husband whom she’d lost.  It was the year before I left for college, the summer before my auditions, the summer before I met my first husband.  It was a portentous year, and one bracketing a great deal more change in my life, though I couldn’t know that either.

By 2004 I was married and watching the games with my mother again from the house both Art and I had just bought from her.  Mom had come to live with us so that she could remain in her home.  I was naive again thinking that this would be the case and that Mom would remain in our home until (perhaps) her death.

But the 2008 games in China were the last olympics my mother saw in her home with us.  In 2010 she left our care because her condition had deteriorated beyond the possibility of having two people who had to work care for her.  In 2011 I also left my home, divorced my husband, and even left my country. And now it is the year 2012.  The games are set to begin shortly (or at least coverage of the opening ceremonies– my favorite aspect– is), and I am thinking about the life changes I’ve undergone between cycles of the olympics. My heart goes backward in time now as I type this watching the setting sun, to the first olympics that I can honestly recall (despite wracking my brain I have no memories of Barcelona).  I remember the popcorn and getting into Mom and Dad’s huge bed in our jammies together while we watched the opening ceremonies.  I remember coming to their room for many nights after that to watch coverage of the sports I’d missed while I was at school during the day.  I remember crying when I learned the olympics would end.  I wanted something that special to just go on and on forever.

It is the year 2012.  I have just finished my thesis and I am engaged.  The next time I see these games I believe that I will be married again.  The next time I watch these games I believe that I will not be a citizen of the United States.  The next time I see them I believe that I will have my PhD in Musicology.  The next time I see these games, I believe that my son will be 10 years old and may have come to stay in Europe with me several times.  I know one thing for certain: life will look different to me than it does now in four years.  If the olympics teach me anything, they teach me to believe that everything can change dramatically in 4 years. But I will still be watching them without both Mama and Daddy, and that sensation is something I am not yet accustomed to.

Below are some of my very favorite moments of all the olympic opening ceremonies I’ve had the privilege of watching on TV.


~ by Rebecca Erickson on July 28, 2012.

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