"4th Heaven" by Annie Nishida
We all have those magical places from childhood that we yearn to visit again. For some, it’s Disneyland (but not on a Grad Nite or any given Saturday). For others, I imagine, it’s on a gondola ride in Venice, Italy, as the dude with the paddle sings and speaks about you in Italian. As for me, my very own magical place, where all my dreams came true, was known as “my friend’s grandma’s house.”
I’d only been there a few times to be babysat after school, but those were times worth cherishing. Here, we would do things I couldn’t do at home like eat Teddy Grahams and pick the yolk out of hard-boiled eggs and just eat the outside, but my most favorite, cherished quirk about this household was that 7th Heaven was constantly on television.
To most, the critically “meh” acclaimed 90’s family drama, 7th Heaven, is considered “preachy” or “for squares” or “seriously, you watch that? For fun?” But for me, it was a source of family drama I lacked in my own life. I’d look at the Camdens living their adventurous lives, dealing with heartbreak, dire situations, and solving it all with practical, Christianity-laced life lessons. And then I’d look to my own life, in which the biggest test of morality was me not wanting to go to basketball practice.
There was no tragedy in my family’s life, unless you count the time I was on my dad’s shoulders leading out from a Beach Boys concert, and he almost dropped me on my head. We weren’t particularly tight-knit, except when we’d watch the same show in separate rooms. Plus, Ruthie Camden’s first training bra experience was a much bigger, coming-of-age event than having my mom throw one at me and say, “Wear this. Your boobs are coming in.”
I wanted 7th Heaven-like lessons to occur every goddamn day of my life, but my family just wasn’t giving it to me. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered I was surrounded by life lessons the whole time; they were just subtler, and not so Christian-based.
My mom is full of practical wisdom, regularly spouting off things like, “Keep two car lengths in front of you in traffic,” “Don’t sleep with your earbuds in unless you want to strangle yourself and die,” and, my own personal favorite, “Men are helpless.” Though, the most useful thing taught me was how to get things done. She’s always worked long hours to get shit done at her office, and when she wasn’t doing that, she’d be vacuuming or cooking or picking up half-used crayons to get shit done at the house. I believe she’s the reason I wake up at 7 every day to do work, and why I feel a deep burning sensation in my heart and tummy and butt when I have to trust others do to things right for group projects, but she’s also the reason I’m writing this essay on a Sunday morning, days in advance, instead of frantically typing at the last minute. Also, she was totally right about the “men being helpless” thing.
My dad is not as upfront when it comes to sharing life advice. Most of our interactions involve him asking me questions about movies he doesn’t understand, and me coming up with a different way to explain that, with time, the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will all come together and make sense to him. Over the years, however, it’s become clear to me that my dad is an expert on something: doing what he wants. He was in grad school when he decided he wanted to open a recording studio, and did just that, changing his career for life. He was in bands in his younger, spryer years, but just recently joined a new one (that mostly plays Katy Perry covers for old people) because he wanted to perform again. If that didn’t convince you, I’ll have you know that one time, my sister saw him take a hot dog out of the packaging, wrap it in a slice of American cheese, and scarf it down, cold. He eats what he wants, too.
My sister is an anomaly to me. She’s 19 years old, drinks on the reg’, and constantly tells me I’m no fun because I’ve never had a watermelon 4Loko (she might have a point). I put work first, read about astrophysics on my free time, and turn down parties because I want to go to sleep at 10. My childhood and young adulthood were spent begging her to do her homework, to not stay out all night at parties, and to not follow through with “decking that girl in the face.” It did not occur to me that, despite being related and everything, we’re different people. She has her way of living, and I have mine, and we’re both turning out to be somewhat-decent human beings who still visit our grandma. Despite her hardest efforts, my sister has taught me to embrace those who are different. And that not all “party people” (as I’ve heard they’re liked to be called) are idiots. And that going to social functions once in a while is a good thing, even if they go past your bedtime. She also taught me what SnapChat is, so there’s that.
My family may not be the god-fearing Camden family on The WB, with whom I’ve been long obsessed, but we have our moments. We are the Nishida family, and we get shit done and do what we want and have fun in the process.