Back when I was about nine years old, Channel 5 out of Washington DC used to run The Outer Limits (the original black and white 1960’s version, not that crappy remake stuff) every weekday afternoon at 5 PM. Most of my friends weren’t allowed to watch it; “It will give you nightmares,” their moms would say. On the other hand, my mom encouraged me to watch it, and to think about the stories (many episodes were literate little morality plays; Alan Moore even flat stole the plot from an Outer Limits episode as his core plot point for Watchmen).

Word got around that I was allowed to watch The Outer Limits and, the next thing you know, all of my friends were asking if they could come to my house to see the show. For several months, kids would watch Dark Shadows at home (no nightmare potential there – too cheesy) and, when it ended at 4:30, make their way over to my house in time for The Outer Limits at 5:00. For an hour each afternoon, our living room was crammed full of kids watching some really cool sci-fi on the tube.

A couple of years later, Channel 9 (also in DC) used to run the old Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon Universal movie serials early on Saturday afternoons (it’s scary how I can remember that kind of minutiae). Mom didn’t just encourage me to watch them – I was required to watch them. No matter what I was doing when Flash Gordon came on, I had to stop and sit down in front of the TV to watch these old movie classics. I laugh when I think about it today: a lot of parents ordered their kids away from the TV set – my mom made Flash Gordon required viewing.

See, my mom was no fool. She’d grown up watching (and loving) the old serials in the neighborhood movie theater, and she knew good and well that I’d end up loving them too. She was right on the money – I own the old Buster Crabbe serials on VHS, DVD, and digitally today, and still watch them regularly.

Later, when I was fifteen years old, the mall toy store started carrying Dungeons & Dragons – the original classic version, mind you: the three little booklets in a faux woodgrain box. My father saw the $10 price tag and blew up when I asked if I could buy the game – there was NO WAY that I was going to buy some stupid game for $10 that consisted of nothing more than three little books. So, one evening when my dad wasn’t around, Mom said “Get your money – we’re going to the mall.” She took me straight to the toy store where I purchased OD&D (I think she even kicked in a couple of dollars toward the cost); her only comment was, “Don’t tell your father.” I proceeded to spend many, many happy hours for years afterward playing OD&D (and numerous other RPGs) with my friends (and, still later, family – both of my sons are avid RPGers, board, miniatures, and card gamers).

Even after I left home, Mom was still encouraging my interest in comics, games and adventure films. I had an old black and white TV set in my first apartment; this was the year Tales of the Gold Monkey debuted on network TV. Mom practically demanded that I come over to her house every Wednesday night to watch it in color: “I’ll be watching it anyway, so you might as well come over and watch it with me.” Mom wasn’t just watching it because she knew I’d like it – she was a big fan of the show herself. Mom loved all of that pulp adventure stuff; she collected Indiana Jones memorabilia – I have her old Indiana Jones doll, still in the box. So every Wednesday night I’d be at mom’s house, lying on my stomach on the floor in front of the TV, with Mom’s dog Daisy sprawled across my back, and Mom sitting in a chair with one eye on the TV and the other on some crocheting (how the heck could she do that?), and all of us thrilling to the adventures of Jake, Sarah, Corky, and Jack (Daisy always perked right up every time Jack barked).

I could tell you about how Mom saw Star Wars when she was away on vacation, before it even came to our town, and how it was all she talked about after she got home. When it finally came to our town a couple of weeks later, Mom was insistent that I take my girlfriend and best pal to see it – and made sure that the three of us were the first people in line for the first show on the day that it opened.

I could tell you about my first radio job, working the weekend midnight shift on an AM station in the late 1970’s (they could hear me the whole way down in North Carolina on the “skip”), when there was a new Flash Gordon animated serial on TV each Saturday morning, and how Mom made sure I never overslept and never missed an episode. (I also have that show on DVD – my lovely bride and I watched a couple of episodes just yesterday).

I could mention that Mom used to give me pulp and adventure memorabilia on birthdays and at Christmas – Flash Gordon spaceships and action figures, Tales of the Gold Monkey picture books, comic books featuring Mandrake and The Phantom.

I could mention a whole lot of stuff. I could mention that my first professional RPG module was published just a week ago, and how sorry I am that Mom isn’t around to see it – because she’s the person most responsible for it, for the part of me that never grew up, that never became mundane and boring, and that I’m still able to really deeply enjoy the little things, like playing Heroclix with my sons and our friends, or watching Batman: The Animated Series and the new Green Lantern animated show with my family. She’s the reason why we have “Pizza and Movie Night” every Sunday at our house, and we’ll be watching Alec Baldwin as The Shadow tonight. She’s the reason why I’m still chucking polyhedron dice and pushing plastic figures or cardboard counters around a map. She’s the reason why I’ve spent much of my adult life making a living in some aspect or other of the game business.

I could mention that she’s the reason why I can still dream big dreams.

And I could mention that my lovely bride and I were watching some episodes of the original Flash Gordon serial a couple of weeks ago…and right in the middle of it I really really missed my mom, and wished that she was still here to watch them with us like she used to do.

My mom was the coolest.

I love you, Mom. Thanks for making me who I am. I can’t send you a card, or give you a hug, so I’ll post this instead – and hope that somewhere, somehow, you’re still able to watch Buster Crabbe and the great Charles Middleton…

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2012, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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