Besides a place where animals are kept, menagerie also means, “An odd or eclectic assortment of things.” That would describe our family room. Or basement. Or great room. Or whatever they call the place where people hang out after dinner these days.
Our current “gathering room” is three or four times larger than the den I remember off highway 66. This was NC 66, which connects Kernersville to Horneytown, about nine miles. It was not U.S. Route 66, which connects Chicago to Los Angeles, about 2,000 miles…and the TV show by the same name.
Mother, and my two brothers and me, often watched “Route 66,” starring Martin Milner and George Maharis, on our little TV in our little den, among its assortment of odd and eclectic things.
On the knotty pine wall above the couch was a picture of “Jesus Knocking At The Door,” surrounded by pictures of the Reid family. As the years went by, Mother kept updating the wall to show pictures of her grandchildren, and my latest wife and me. She once threatened to start pasting a picture of my new wife over the picture of my old wife.
Built-in bookcases flanked a window at one end of the den, which was to the right of our 17-inch B&W TV from Sears. The bookcase housed a set of Grolier encyclopedias (we couldn’t afford World Book), several Reader’s Digest condensed books, medical encyclopedias, more Reid photos, a photo of a family I didn’t recognize (I think it came with the frame), someone’s brass baby shoes, a jack-in-the-box and a pair of praying hands.
The other end of the den featured our “entertainment center,” consisting of a turntable (beside a stack of Elvis albums) and a Zenith radio. Eight-track tapes hadn’t come along yet.
By comparison, our modern “menagerie” features computers, iPads, printers, big-screen TV, a Bose Wave radio/CD player, photos (including my current wife and me), a few of my journalism awards, books by George Orwell to George Carlin, and an eclectic assortment of things including an empty Scotch bottle from World War II, a duck decoy, a Super Bowl trophy (from my fantasy team), a “Ray’s 19th Hole” sign, a Dodgers clock, a Jack Russell terrier figurine, a microwave oven and a piano no one can play.
And then there’s the toy Corvette. When I close my eyes I see Martin Milner at the wheel, on Route 66. And Mother and Jerry and Bob and me huddled around the TV watching, in the little den in the little house on NC 66…so many years ago.
— Raymond Reid
Raymond Reid is a national-award winning humor columnist from Kernersville, NC. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.