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The Saturday Morning Blues

How the Smurfs brightened up my childhood

It's never easy – or respectable – getting nostalgic for my childhood. See, I grew up in the '80s. It's hard to get misty-eyed for your youth when it's blindingly Day Glo. (And big-haired. And acid-washed. And shoulder-padded. Shoulder pads do no one good, especially a 60-pound knobby-kneed 5th grader.)

But, once I push past all the fashion don'ts of yore, I get to the creamy center of those days gone by: Saturday morning cartoons. Much as my son thinks he's got it made with round-the-clock cable cartoon-ery, I'm a little sad for him that he doesn't have the sweet anticipation each week of a special Saturday spent with his animated buds.

This was my thing: I'd wake up so early, you would have thought it was Christmas morning. 5:30 a.m. Not prime time for 'toons. My early riser parents would flip on the TV, a faux wood-paneled box perched high on a corner shelf in our family room. (That journeyman box was the balding, scruffy character actor to today's shiny-abbed celebrity flatscreens.) Afghans, couch cushions and our teeny kitchen table became my makeshift headquarters, and I'd sit amid the shaky structure, waiting with eager eyes and heart. The cartoons never played to my schedule. I had to endure the network's pre-programming color bars, roll my eyes at "Bassmasters" and try to daydream while I waited, until finally – finally! – those first strains of jocund, happy Saturday morning cartoon music spilled over my recently pierced ears. At that point, my mom would fire up the stove to assemble what remains my favorite breakfast to this day: chocolate-chip pancakes. Really, what more did I need? (Turns out, braces, but that's a story for a different day.)

At the time, those hours were precious, but today, for the most part, I can't even recount most of the shows I watched - save one. The candy-colored parade of Saturday morning TV always built to a peak upon which sat the tiny kings (and queen) of my imagination: "The Smurfs."

For an '80s kid, "The Smurfs" were appointment television. You didn't miss their adventures for fear of being deemed non-Smurfy come school on Monday. I loved the little blue peeps. Even if you had a lousy week at school (or mom burned the chocolate-chip pancakes) the Smurfs happy-go-lucky, let's-skip-not-walk, smurftastic way of looking at the world brought new meaning to being blue. And unlike the dense, hard-to-follow worlds of the action-hero cartoons my brother liked, the Smurfs kept things simple and loose. Basically, there were two rules: help out your fellow Smurf and stay away from Gargamel. I could totally get behind that.

So, even if my son never gets to experience the whole Saturday morning thing (which I'm sure I've rendered more soft-lighting awesome than it actually was), I'm glad that, as of July 29, he'll get to experience The Smurfs when the movie hits theaters. And then I'll have the chance to tell him how cool my '80s upbringing was. (And maybe guilt Grandma into making some chocolate-chip pancakes.)

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