This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 edition of Centrepiece.
For alums of my era, the video store was the only way to obsess over a favorite movie. I first rented Child of Glass as a tween because of the cover. It was lovely—the sun shining through the video store windows had bleached the image to a nostalgic sheen. The washed-out faces of our two heroes stare at some unseen horror, their mouths agape to show their imperfectly aligned teeth (in the days before braces were considered a basic human right in America).
I loved Child of Glass intensely. This movie-of-the-week, Wonderful World of Disney, made-for-TV masterpiece had all the cinematic quality lighting, acting, and storyline of an episode of The Dukes of Hazard. And I adored every blurry moment of it.
The boy, Alexander, looked a lot like someone I could crush on. Slightly shaggy hair, cool T-shirt. And the girl: Blossom Culp (what a name). Well, she was not so unlike me: long, messy hair. Glasses. In the 1980s, glasses were not geeky cool. They were just geeky. And I wore mine with the meekness of the terminally low self-esteemed.
I didn’t realize it then, but this film would play an important part in my life. And it
was closer to home than I could have ever imagined.
Watching this particularly “spooky” movie required a few accessories: dim lighting (easily achieved in a wood-paneled TV room); a cozy blanket (cue scratchy crocheted afghan); chocolate milk made with approximately half a box of Nesquik; and a snack.
The movie would warble to life, the VCR tracking to find a suitably steady picture. The music of the opening credits was equally warped, slightly whiny. A spooky refrain of “Frère Jacques” plays in an orchestrated version with a kicky snare beat, gently swelling violins carrying it all (think the theme song from most 1970s-era sitcoms). Familiar countryside sweeps past the family’s car as they drive up and down gentle hills. Pastures of long grass, a few horses, a rail fence. I was drawn to this scenery, sitting into it casually, not realizing my affinity was born of familiarity. Twenty years later, I would come across an article in a local newspaper from Harrodsburg, Ky., that may have explained my obsession.
Child of Glass was filmed in Boyle County. Thirty minutes from my childhood home. Locations in Harrodsburg and Danville, home of Centre College. I jogged through the cemetery featured in the film. I took sign language classes at the Kentucky School for the Deaf, the building featured as the school in the movie.
I loved the film for the spooky ghost story, for Alexander’s dreamy charm, for the me I saw in Blossom Culp.
But I was most drawn to the movie in an inexplicable way because, I think, I knew it was home.
By the time I was at Centre and trampling all over the movie set, Child of Glass was 20 years old. The VHS tape had long since been retired from circulation in most video shops, having outlived its picture quality and popularity. I hadn’t seen the film in 10 of those 20 years, so I can be forgiven for not seeing the real thing when I got there, I think. But Centre College itself had that kind of draw for me. I didn’t know it immediately, but looking back now, the first time I set foot on campus, I was already home. Twenty years after my own Centre graduation ceremony, I still think back to my time at Centre, full of adventure and discovery: a semester in London, singing backup to The Chieftains at the Norton Center, sitting on the steps in Newlin Hall to hear Yoyo Ma even though I desperately needed to finish a paper, Air Guitar with the Phi Taus. All of it seemed new and magical, but it also felt like the very best version of home.
Rebecca Hamilton Brothers ’00 lives in Louisville with her husband, Kyle Brothers ’00; son, Kevin; and daughter, Mallie. She transferred to Centre her sophomore year and spent happy hours as a Centre Singer, founding member of the Centre ADPi chapter, and occasional writer for the Cento. She teaches English, just like her English professor Mark Lucas ’75 said she would.
by Rebecca Hamilton Brothers ’00