Image for post
Image for post

Why My Childhood Dies With Bill Cosby’s Legacy

Former icon and disgraced comedian Bill Cosby was recently found guilty on “all three counts of aggravated indecent assault” — and his faithful and devoted wife Camille Cosby released a statement in defense of her badly battered husband — by condemning the system that she believes has a vendetta against her family.

“Once again, an innocent person has been found guilty based on an unthinking
unquestioning, unconstitutional frenzy propagated by the media and allowed to play out in a supposed court of law.” “This is mob justice, not real justice.This tragedy must be undone not just for Bill Cosby, but for the country.”

There’s no need to get into the specifics of what toppled the man who wasn’t only a revered scholar — but also so many delightful things rolled into one — including “America’s Dad” — the caption he rightfully earned from the years spent portraying the lovable — knowledgeable and charismatic obstetrician — Dr. Heathcliff (Cliff) Huxtable — the son of a well-renowned jazz musician.

Cliff is married to Clair — the gorgeous — ambitious and graceful matriarch and lawyer— and they have five adorable children (Sandra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy). The family unit was based in Brooklyn Heights — a fact that I stumbled upon when I did research during the early phase of Cosby’s scandal.

I spent my childhood in the thrilling metropolis of Lagos, Nigeria — and that period was energetically tumultous due to the gangster regimes — staged by the antics of the Nigerian army — that utilized the weaponry of numerous coups to seize and relinquish power.

The eighties shaped me into a freakish fan of the culture that birthed a decade filled with pompous exaggeration that overwhelmed every outlet that could manage that level of flexibility.

When adults weep at the betrayal of their idols — I can’t help but wonder if the feelings are somewhat misplaced. It’s one thing to have your safety net vandalized when you’re young and impressionable — but as we mature — surely we get to experience the full effect of realizing that life is way more complicated than the ideal of blissfully dumping Oreo cookies in a glass of cold milk.

I survived the era of big hair and neon “everything” with the companionship of crying and laughing sessions set to the soundtrack of Purple Rain and The Cosby Show.

The timetable back then mandated that TV stations would begin operating around 4 pm — which meant that the mornings and early afternoons were spent socializing with other kids — before using the time for siesta to either daydream or catch up on the characters in the books you borrowed from boarding school mates.

The nights were usually low key and uneventful — except for the part when The Huxtables came to visit — that was terrific fun. It was also bonding time for the family of four — that rarely ate dinner together because of conflicting schedules.

I still remember spending each day — browsing through the lists of programs— to find out if my favorite treat was included in the line up — and when I successfully peeped the title — the instinctual satisfaction from anticipating another hilarious episode automatically improved my restless disposition.

I loved the way the opening credits showcased the funny man — playfully engaging with his vibrantly stunning brood. I enjoyed pretending I was Denise in real life and then switching to her really cute friend that Theo has a crush on. I recall noticing that Sandra distractingly didn’t resemble her make-believe parents — but I loved her anyway. I relished the musical numbers — especially the one on the staircase — celebrating the wedding anniversary of the grandparents. I cherished the moments of parenthood — when Cliff and Clair would remind their kids that they loved them no matter what — even when Theo had to get that damn earring. I was smitten my Rudy — enchanted by Vanessa’s “fourth-child syndrome” — and excited by all the guest appearances that featured familiar faces of that era.

But — most importantly — I valued the minutes spent with the real life set of characters that I easily converted to a promising sitcom. My mother was as beautiful and jovial as Clair and also sustained a thriving career while making sure her daughter and son were well nourished and presentable. My brother exhibited some of Theo’s characteristics — and my relationship with him never lacked for material.

The only challenging cast member was my father — and that was due to his guarded temperament. The only thing he had in common with Cliff was the fact that he shared some of his physical attributes. My father’s temperament was quite guarded — which prevented him from being as readily accessible as his more easygoing doppleganger.

I guess that’s why having The Cosby Show in our living room was a vital part of the growing up process. I relied on it for laughs — and I also accrued fond memories of my father loosening up under the spell of something that we all had in common. During those episodes — I could relax and take in the joyous energy — while joking around with the father who would occasionally make allowances for those connections — but not nearly enough for my contentment.

Once the show was over — we would all revert back to our usual stations and my dad’s serious nature would once again overrule whatever previously transpired.

When I got a little older — I was treated to the equally sensational spinoff — A Different World that briefly featured Denise during her college years at Hillman. I expectedly fell madly in lust with my new friends — mainly because I was approaching that time in my life when I too would be heading out to a different world — a place called — America — where I would be tasked with charting my personalized journey into adulthood.

Image for post
Image for post
Friends for life

A Different World served me well by shedding light on issues that I was completely naive about like racism — rape and colorism. It was fantastic to have another gem from a genius who seemed to have my interests in mind — when he created the anchors that seamlessly provided the camaraderie when I needed it the most.

Unfortunately — the dream has converted into a nightmare as I have to contend with the fact that my childhood — as I know it — has perished with Bill Cosby’s tarnished legacy.

When the disturbing reports of sexual assault began to surface — there was the initial stage of denial as I tried but failed to reconcile the man who played the endearingly classic role of the idolized family man — with the career criminal who spent decades drugging and raping women.

The number of victims that came forward to share their harrowing testimonies astounded me and I can’t say that I was initially inclined to believe them — and of course I knew that my past was getting in the way. I understood that the underlying reason for my resistance was embedded in my reluctance to give up the one thing that made my childhood memories crisp and sweet.

It didn’t take long for me to swallow the bitter truth — and to swiftly compartmentalize the feelings of loss and betrayal as I navigated through the daunting assignment of re-arranging the series of events — in ways that could accommodate the shocking aftermath of a violent explosion.

I will no longer be able to nostalgically view The Cosby Show or A Different World because the creator — who is guilty as charged — has lost everything he worked for and built with his bare hands. He is now a demented relic — who is cursed by the spell he concocted — back when he systematically used his power as a deadly weapon against his vulnerable victims.

Image for post
Image for post
The jarring cover of Ebony magazine (2015)

It look a long time to bring him down — but he’s finally exactly where he needs to be — and while I’m supportive of all the shit aimed his way — there’s a huge part of me that’s in mourning.

I feel bad for the young girl — who didn’t know what was coming — and who had no idea that her hero was actually a supervillain — parading as one of the most esteemed figures in pop culture.

I can’t erase the past —I can only allow my younger version to retain the goodness that she shared with the ones that she loved because carving that out will be too arduous and nobody has time for that.

Yes — a part of my childhood was a lie and I can’t look back without feelings of guilt and self-pity — but at least the person responsible for the discomfort will pay the ultimate price. My inconvenience pales in comparison to the women who were brutally assaulted — and I can only hope that justice will provide some sense of closure.

In the meantime — there’s the reminder that we can’t rely on the fandom of artists to protect us from the ugliness of life — because being creative demands a level of selfishness that includes the inability to consistently maintain a level of righteousness.

Something has to give — and when it happens — we all lose.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store