12/8/22

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

It’s no secret that I love the old television series, The Waltons. I suppose the weirdest thing about that is that I never watched the show when it was not a rerun. It wasn’t “cool” to watch The Waltons when I was in high school. But what made me connect to The Waltons was the actual logistics between me and John Boy. On Thursday nights, I would be up in my room, writing in my journal or working on a story, and I’d be listening to my family, who were down in the family room, watching The Waltons. On The Waltons, John Boy was up in his room, writing in his journal or working on a story, and he’d be listening to his family, down in the living room, listening to a show on the radio.

I felt that connection, up in my room, between me and a character who wanted to be a writer as well, back during the Depression. It was the first time, really, that I felt that connection. It made me feel less alone.

I started watching The Waltons for real when I was pregnant with my first son. By then, it was in rerun, and over the years, as my family grew, I continued to watch The Waltons as it bounced from channel to channel, and each time, I felt less alone. I also found more to connect with, as my life experiences increased and paralleled with John Boy, but also with other members of the family. Especially Olivia, the mother. Yes, there’s a reason why my Olivia was given that name.

Eventually, the show went on video, and I bought every season. When it went on DVD, I replaced my VHS tapes with DVDs. I own every season, plus every special.

But that’s not all. I also own the Waltons Barbie-type dolls, the Little Golden Books, the illustrated novels, the LPs, the board game, the lunchbox, the Viewmaster reels, some of the scripts, and on and on. I’ve visited the real Walton’s Mountain, and I stood outside the real Walton’s house. While there, I corrected the tour guide for the Walton’s Mountain museum, who had her details wrong on an episode where Olivia had polio. I also met Earl Hamner’s aunt, who graciously took me outside to show me a trailing arbutus, a plant that Grandpa Walton often rhapsodized about. Earl Hamner is the creator of the Waltons. Much of the show is autobiographical, and Earl Hamner is the original John Boy.

But the most incredible moment was the day Earl Hamner himself friended me on Facebook. We remained friends until his death on March 24, 2016.

And Earl Hamner was John Boy. And John Boy was Richard Thomas.

Which leads to this week’s moment.

A friend who lives in Appleton found out that the traveling tour of To Kill A Mockingbird, a play based on the novel by Harper Lee, was coming to her town. And who is playing Atticus Finch? Richard Thomas.

John Boy.

And she bought tickets. And invited me.

On February 25th, 2023, I am going to be looking up at a stage and seeing the real live John Boy. Everyone else might be seeing Atticus Finch, but I am going to seeing the young man who wrote alongside me, in his own era, when I was in high school. I will be seeing the character who has kept me company all these years.

I didn’t mention earlier, but among the Waltons paraphernalia I own is a slender volume of poetry, called, appropriately enough, Poems. It was written by Richard Thomas while he was playing the young John Boy, early in the nine seasons of the show. And I am hoping, hoping, hoping, to get him to sign it.

But here’s the thing. My Moment this week isn’t just about John Boy. It’s also about friendship. And having a friend who knows me so well that she would understand the way my heart would just about explode at the idea of even being in the same room with Richard Thomas. And knowing that, she still doesn’t laugh at me, but instead goes out of her way to get those tickets.

February 25th. I’m gonna see John Boy!

Thank you, Karen.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Me with my John Boy doll and the book of poems by Richard Thomas.

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