8/6/20

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

When I started at Planet Fitness in January, I learned very quickly that I need to have something to watch while on a treadmill. Thanks to Netflix and Hulu, I quickly fell in love with the series This Is Us, and often had tears running down my face when I finished my workout. Other times, I watched Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and the incredible music kept me bopping along. Sometimes, I just watched HGTV, though I found that hour-long shows were the best, providing me with nonstop distraction the entire time I was working away.

Then COVID hit and the gym closed down. Stuck at home, I ordered a small stepper and some free weights. I put the stepper behind the loveseat in my living room and then held on to the seat back while watching (and laughing) at Schitt’s Creek. I hated that stepper, but Schitt’s Creek helped to make it tolerable.

Over Memorial Day, the gym reopened, but I just didn’t feel comfortable. Sad, I canceled my membership. Then I bought a treadmill and rearranged a back room into a workout room. I still had my free weights and Michael and Olivia gave me a resistance band for my birthday. I prop my phone on the treadmill and watch shows.

It’s been a disorienting time for everyone, I think. Things that we used to do every day are gone. Things that we used to do without thinking now require thinking and planning, and sometimes, worrying for two weeks afterward, wondering if we’ve been foolish. I used to look out my windows and admire the views. Now, I look out the windows with hunger. I want to sit in a restaurant for a relaxing dinner where I am served. I want to go to a flea market. I want to wander the mall and get lost for hours in a bookstore.

But I stay at home. Do my job. Walk on my treadmill.

Recently, I started watching the Gilmore Girls. Old show, I know, but new to me. Within two episodes, I was thoroughly hooked and delighted.

A few nights ago, I was watching and tromping when, on the show, Lorelei, one of the main characters, comes across an abandoned inn. It’s called the Dragonfly Inn. But I immediately didn’t care what it was called. I almost fell off my treadmill as I yelled, “That’s the Waltons’ house! It is! That’s the screen door! That’s the furniture on the porch! That’s the barn and Daddy’s sawmill!”

Oh, The Waltons. My favorite television show of all time. I loved it in high school when I didn’t even watch it. Instead, I sat in my bedroom upstairs, writing in my journal while my family watched The Waltons downstairs, and on the show, John Boy was in his bedroom, writing in his journal while his family listened to the radio. I felt so much connection, I didn’t go down to watch, but let history repeat itself through me.

I loved it when I began to watch it for real, when I was pregnant with my first child. The Waltons allowed me to release hormone-heavy emotions every single day. And then I just kept loving it, to the point of being able to recite each episode by heart, owning pretty much every kind of Waltons memorabilia there is, and visiting the real Waltons Mountain in Schuyler, Virginia.

I will never forget being in the Waltons Mountain Museum, across the street from the Hamner House, where the real “Jim Bob” lived. I met Earl Hamner’s aunt, who was visiting that day. She saw me correct the tour guide (I was right!) and she came up to me afterwards. “Please,” I said, “can you show me a trailing arbutus? Grandpa Walton loved the trailing arbutus, and I’ve always wanted to see one.”

She took me by the hand and led me outside. Against the wall of the museum was the trailing arbutus, covered in bees. We stood there in reverence. I felt at home.

Now, on the treadmill on that night, I felt the Gilmore Girls fall away. Instead, there was only that house. I felt familiarity drape me like Olivia Walton’s quilt, when they spread it over her legs, affected by polio. I watched the screen door, expecting Mary Ellen to burst out in a fit of teenage pique. Or Grandma, grabbing John Boy’s hand and asking for a tour of the college he would attend. She would see a posting about a class called The Bible As Literature, and encourage him to take it. I would take it too, when I went to college. I expected the dog, Reckless, to come out of the barn and sprawl by the sawmill. In the sawmill, the writer A.J. Covington stayed in a small room and encouraged John Boy to give up the idea of writing his One Big Story, but instead to write all the little stories. I saw the tree where Olivia sat while John Boy read her the poem The Windhover for her birthday, a birthday where she felt old and ordinary and like there was nothing left.

Familiarity, in the middle of all this chaos. The Walton family stepped out of the shadows and wrapped me in memory, writing in my journal, weeping while pregnant, and everything else that came after. Getting through and getting through and getting through. History repeating itself.

I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a house before.

Now, I knew, Waltons nut that I am, that the set with the house burned down in 1991. How was it here, in the Gilmore Girls, so many years later? Research once I got off the treadmill showed that the house was rebuilt, so that the Waltons could return for their reunion shows. I should have known that, but I didn’t.

But there it was, in front of me. All right, even after a fire. A miracle.

And yes, that helped. Oh, how it helped. Despite. Anyway.

With my Waltons lunchbox. Thermos inside.

 

 

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