TV Made Them Lose Their Home

The house sat midway up the street and stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the surrounding homes. White peeling paint adorning its exterior, and every spring, grass made a futile attempt to grow on a barren dirt lawn. Despite (or because of) three generations of one family living under its roof, few found time to care for the house, and it showed. The home’s grimy appearance, coupled with the shrieks of screaming children, the calls of the mother trying to get things done, and the occasional extra cacophony whenever there would be a large gathering, only underscored the point.

They were not a very wealthy family, as it was rare that the adults of the house held a job for more than a month or two at a time. With five daughters and countless grandchildren living with them, money was very hard to come by. They had a beat-up car sitting in their driveway, but because of the lack of fuel money, any time anyone wanted to go somewhere, they required a ride that would pick them up. Their two-story house seemed to be in a state of perpetual decay, and it was barren of any unnecessary items aside from the old stereo kept in the garage and the wide-screen television in the living room.

A growing number of family members spent the majority of their time around the television instead of working. The daughters, who had spent their youth outside, were raising their children in the glow of the “educational” programs that television ads championed as beneficial for growing minds, while their parents gathered everyone around whenever they could to watch their favorite sitcoms. It was rare to see anyone who lived in the home full-time away for more than an hour or two, and even then they only disappeared to return with grocery bags filled of bare necessities and snacks, along with newcomers, to watch television with them. Lights from the TV filled one particular upper floor room every single night, shown brilliantly through an empty window devoid of blinds or curtains. Silhouettes of people watching what was on screen told the story better than any words could: for that household, family time was television time.

Rumors spread through the neighborhood that the call of television meant so much to them that they had chosen to pay for their cable package over their basic utilities. These rumors were confirmed when several family members went door-to-door, asking anyone who opened their door to use the restroom. The reason behind this, they said, was due to the home no longer having running water. They weren’t just without water, though. When the family began patrolling the street for anyone who was willing to give up a blanket or two, it was clear they had lost their heat as well. They had chosen their electric bill and their television over heating their home, and now they were suffering through the cold of late fall with almost no protection from the changing elements.

By the time winter proper rolled around, they were gone, evicted from the house for non-payment on their mortgage, but not without finally losing their last salvation. Days before they packed up and drove off into the sunset, their power had been shut off, which inspired them to spend more time outside than they had in years while packing their few belongings that they had always possessed throughout the journey. When they removed the flat-screen television that had meant so much to them as a family, the reality of the situation had set in, and their time in the house was over. There were no goodbyes or fanfare when they left, just the loss of a family that had let television, their one true vice, be its downfall.

The house was bought out by the city and refurbished into a home for welfare recipients who had very little else in life going for them, and to this day, no other family has moved in with such a crippling addiction to something beyond their needs. There have been rowdy children who throw dirt at passing cars, families with more children than they could comfortable fit in bedrooms, and the current family seems to have a new friend staying with them weekly. Yet there has never been a family quite like the one originally in that house, family-oriented in all the wrong ways, allowing television to run the show under their roof when they should have been programming their own lives in rich and useful ways.