And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Last night, I was talking with a student in Australia and she brought up the Beverly Hillbillies. She couldn’t come up with the theme song. We meet in a chatroom and I spent the next several minutes, burning up my fingertips by typing out the entire song, all the way down to the “Hills, that is. Swimming pools. Movie stars.” Cue banjo solo.
After I mentioned this on Facebook, along with the fact that I couldn’t remember to go pick up a prescription at Walgreens that has been sitting there for a week, my brother asked if I remembered the theme song from Green Acres.
Yep. I typed it all out. No, I didn’t google it. It’s in my own personal google. My head.
The theme from the Brady Bunch. Gilligan’s Island. H.R. Pufnstuf. The Tra-la-la song from the Banana Splits. I can hum the song from all the Charlie Brown specials, though the song itself is actually called Linus & Lucy.
Good lord. You would think I spent my entire childhood in front of the television. I didn’t.
On Tuesday, and pretty much any other day of the week in my life, I ended up talking about The Waltons. To a class that had one student who had no idea who the Waltons were. She was too young. I mentioned that I owned the Waltons Barbie dolls.
Big eyes around the table. “The Waltons were made into Barbie dolls?”
Yes. Grandma and Grandpa, Mama and Daddy, John Boy and Mary Ellen. The rest of the family wasn’t represented, which likely means they didn’t sell well. But I have these, along with my Waltons lunchbox, board game (two copies), Viewmaster and reels, paper dolls, books (including a book of really awful poetry by Richard Thomas, who played John Boy), LP’s, and the entire series on DVD. I own the TV Guides that featured the show on the cover. And I have the Playboy that Mary Ellen Walton posed in, trying to shed her good mountain girl reputation.
And yet I didn’t start watching the Waltons until I was an adult, pregnant with my first child, and the reruns were on the old Family Channel on cable. But John Boy affected me long before then.
When I was in high school, I was always up in my room, writing. One Thursday night, I realized I was in my room, writing in my journal, listening to my family downstairs where they were watching The Waltons on television, where John Boy was up in his room, writing in his journal, listening to his family listen to Fibber McGee & Molly (I believe) on the radio. And I was zapped through with connection. With community. I was not isolated in my room, alone with my words and the story unfolding in my head. I was surrounded by writers, trailing all the way back through history.
John Boy was the first person to make me feel like what I was doing had any worth and any place of permanence. From that point on, writing became more than an activity to me. It became a life. And I belonged to a rich and wonderful community.
Now, I can sit down and watch any episode of the series, starting it at any place, and recite the script with the characters by memory. I’ve visited the real Walton’s Mountain, which is Schuyler, Virginia. I met Earl Hamner’s aunt – Earl was the writer of The Waltons, and he was the real John Boy. I corrected the tour guide during the Walton’s Mountain Museum tour, when she wrongly identified the quilt at the foot of John Boy’s bed. I’ve used scenes from the show in my lectures.
One of the big highlights of my life was the day Earl Hamner friended me on Facebook. I grieved when he died. I’ve grieved with the passing of the actors – Grandpa, Grandma, Daddy, and several of the minor, but no less fabulous characters.
But John Boy. My heart forever and ever belongs to John Boy. Because he let me know that whenever I sat down to write, the entire world’s history of writers stood behind me, looked over my shoulders, and thought what I was doing was worth doing.
Whenever I question if I am on the right path, which I’ve done a lot lately, I look to The Waltons. And I remember and feel again the saturation of emotion I had that night, in my bedroom, writing in my journal, while my family watched TV.
I won’t ever say goodnight to John Boy. I might sing him the theme from the Beverly Hillbillies, but I won’t ever say goodnight.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.