My family got cable when I was barely a teenager. That summer, I discovered old movies.
I had seen vintage movies before, of course. Once a year, network television (we got NBC, CBS, PBS and - when the weather was right - ABC) rewarded us with some of the classics or, at least, family favorites: The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, The Sound of Music, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Ten Commandments, Mary Poppins.
But I didn't know of much else until cable television crawled into my little valley in Southwest Virginia.
Katharine Hepburn was a revelation. The Philadelphia Story. Bringing Up Baby. Woman of the Year. The African Queen.
Gracious, Bogart. Casablanca. The Maltese Falcon. To Have and Have Not. The Big Sleep. Key Largo - mustn't forget Lauren Bacall.
Cary Grant, the unsurpassed movie star. North by Northwest. Arsenic and Old Lace. To Catch a Thief. Operation Petticoat. Father Goose. Indiscreet. That Touch of Mink.
Oh yes, Doris Day. Her appeal was tremendous during what I dubbed my "Harlequin years." Pillow Talk. Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Send Me No Flowers. With Six You Get Eggroll. The Glass-Bottomed Boat.
Jimmy Stewart. Clark Gable. Audrey Hepburn. Grace Kelly. Spencer Tracy. Elizabeth Taylor. Tony Curtis. Rock Hudson. And Marilyn Monroe.
Their faces, their voices, the way they carried themselves. I was captivated.
Some Like It Hot. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It Happened One Night. Giant. All About Eve. My Fair Lady. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Sergeant York. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Bell Book and Candle. Sunset Boulevard. Cleopatra. How to Marry a Millionaire. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Rear Window. Breakfast at Tiffany's. Auntie Mame. Charade. Roman Holiday.
I reveled in women exquisitely dressed, men in crisp suits and hats, dazzling settings, danger and romance, charm and heartbreak, excitement and longing, humor and passion. The lives and events depicted in such films obviously were often mere illusion, but that fact merely nourished a young girl already harboring overwhelmingly fanciful notions.
Yes, reality came as quite a shock to that young girl.
But to this day if I happen to catch any one of those movies (and many others like them) on TV, I greet it with a rush of feeling like seeing a dear old friend I have missed for far too long.
What's the harm in a little fantasy?