I don’t think I’ll ever watch Wheel of Fortune without the image of this in my mind: my parents’ pedestaled oval-shaped solid wood dining table (“from Finger’s Furniture” my mom would proudly state) with its glass top, under which sat a mauve-pink waxy polyester tablecloth.
Many many family dinners were spent there in my childhood and adolescence, whilst watching WOF together at 6:30 on the dot. Of course then, we couldn’t DVR it, and it wasn’t a show “worthy” of taping for viewing later. Though there was a larger TV in the adjacent open living room, my parents opted to use the smaller kitchen television, rotating it around 90 degrees to the dining table view when eating dinner, or, back towards the stove and island if Mom was cooking and we were prepping.
Though watching TV during family dinner is so unbecoming these days, we have fond memories of placing consonants correctly and figuring out those word puzzles together. We hissed “YES!” in glee when we won a puzzle before a contestant did, and we cheered each other on when one of us brilliantly guessed the final scramble. It was a show of family support and pride; a symbol of achievement and teamwork in a non-athletic Indian family who didn’t participate in any sports or games. We were each others’ cheerleaders and proud of our laudable accomplishments during our wordophilic family TV time.
Dinners were usually a quick meal of rotli, daal, bhaath, shaak, a four word mashup of a typical Gujarati meal (the four Gujarati meal words that all non-Gujarati Indians like to butcher into one long ridiculous sounding noun “rotlidaalbhathshaak”). Imagine spelling that one on WOF!
These words literally translate into: Indian flatbread, lentil curry, vegetable curry, and rice. We deftly scooped the mildly spicy vegetable curry into a golf-ball sized piece of papery thin whole wheat baked flatbread and dipped the whole thing into the soupy lentil curry, then immediately popped the savory hodgepodge into our mouths. In between mouthfuls, we’d glance over to see which white tile the elegant and ever-youthful Vanna was about to overturn (has she aged at all in the last 20 years??!!) We would pause before the next morsel of food to take a gander at the puzzle.
Dad would say when we were younger that we could be the President of the United States if we really wanted to be, citing his own fulfilled dreams of coming to a country where one can be anything one wants to be and raise children in an opportune and fortunate land. In the years that we were older, he would occasionally still mention the potential occupation that would never be, but began to say instead that we could be on TV one day, perhaps playing Wheel of Fortune.
And we did, my sister and I.
It was the first time we played Wheel of Fortune not at that dinner table.