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

Well, anyone who follows me on my Facebook page knows what this week’s moment is going to be about. (https://www.facebook.com/kathie.giorgio.5, by the way)

Last Saturday night, at approximately 10:45 p.m., I met, face to face, voice to voice, breathing the same air…Richard Thomas.

AKA John Boy Walton.

If I was a squealing type of person, you would have heard my squeal around the world. But I’m not. I was actually very calm, very collected. And very, very happy.

I started actually watching the Waltons when I was pregnant with my first child. I was 23 years old. I’m 62 now. So my connection to the Waltons, and to John Boy in particular, could be said to have gone on for 39 years. But in fact, I first felt myself connected to John Boy in 1972, when the show first aired. I didn’t watch the show then. But the character of John Boy reached to me from the television in the living room of my family home, up the stairs, down the hall, and into my pink room, where I sat at my desk, writing.

My parents watched the Waltons. I didn’t, first, because it wasn’t “cool” to watch them, and second, because I was too busy writing. But John Boy and I became friends, just the same.

He was the first person I “knew” who was doing what I was doing…sitting alone in my room, writing, when I could have been outside playing, I could have been downstairs watching television, I could have been riding my bike, I could have been doing pretty much anything else, doing what most kids my age were doing, in my neighborhood, right outside my window.

But I was writing. And so was John Boy.

While I wrote, the sound of the show drifted up the stairs, and I listened to my family watch The Waltons. And on the show, John Boy was in his room, writing, listening to his family listen to the radio.

I remember this moment so well. Lifting my head and looking out the window. And thinking, I’m not the only one. It was a moment that happened over and over again, until I sat down to watch the show myself in 1983.

At that point, I’d graduated from college with my degree in creative writing. I was married and working part-time, and pregnant with my first child. I worked every day until noon, came home for lunch, and then wrote for several hours. Pregnancy pulled at my energy and in the late afternoon, I took a break to sit on the couch and watch television. Where I discovered The Waltons, in reruns, on the Family Channel.

At the time, I was scared. For the first time, I was on my own with writing. There were no teachers to encourage me. I was no longer in school. There was only me, my Royal Selectric electric typewriter, my worn copy of The Writers Market, my imagination, and rejection letter after rejection letter. I was dogged and determined, but I no longer had “coaches” cheering me on. At college, I’d met others with my same drive and passion, but now, just like I was in that pink bedroom, I was the only one I knew who was doing what I was doing.

And then there was John Boy again.

Suddenly, I had company.

Over the years, I watched The Waltons on television. Then, I owned the entire series on VHS. Now, I have it on DVD. I visited the real Waltons Mountain, met Earl Hamner’s aunt who took me outside the Waltons Mountain Museum to show me what a trailing arbutus looked like. I corrected the tour guide, who got a detail on one of the episodes wrong. As time went on, eBay was born, and I collected Waltons memorabilia. The lunch box, the board game, the Viewmaster reels, the Little Golden books, coloring books, the Barbie-type dolls, the paper dolls. My favorite piece was a book published in 1974, of poetry by Richard Thomas.

I was bowled over when I realized that the real person behind the portrayal of John Boy was also a writer.

I was even more bowled over when the real John Boy, Earl Hamner himself, friended me on Facebook.

And of course, while I was surrounded by rejection letters, I went on to publish. This week, this past Tuesday, my 14th book, a novel called Hope Always Rises, was released. On page 11 of that book, my main character, Hope, newly arrived in Heaven, turns on the television and asks to watch the first two episodes of The Waltons. Because, of course, my vision of Heaven would not be complete without that show.

So I found myself this last Saturday at the Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wisconsin. On stage was the tour of To Kill A Mockingbird. Playing Atticus Finch: Richard Thomas.

John Boy.

A friend purchased a ticket for me, and I gladly drove the two hours north to the theatre. In the weeks before, I did everything I could to orchestrate a meeting. Richard Thomas isn’t active on social media, but the actress that played Erin, Mary Beth McDonough, is. I emailed her, and she advised me to contact the theatre. I did, but heard nothing back. In the end, I just went to the stage door after the show…and waited.

And then there he was.

I did not squeal.

But I did tell him of our connection. While we talked, his eyes never left mine. And then I reached into my purse and pulled out that little poetry book and asked him to sign it. I also pulled out Hope Always Rises and offered it to him.

He asked me to sign it too. I did.

To Richard Thomas,

Thank you for changing my life.

Kathie Giorgio

And then he asked me if he could hug me.

I’m sure you can imagine what I answered.

Full circle moment.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Me with Richard Thomas’ poetry book. Now signed by the author himself!
Me and Richard Thomas.
Signing my book for him.
The beginning of the hug. Michael was taking the photos. He caught this just at the beginning.
Hope Always Rises. Oh, it does indeed.

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