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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Thank You Norman Lear

At 5 my family was completed when my dad married the woman I call my mom. She had a daughter who was 3 years older than me and a son who was 5 days older. I had a built-in playmate! It was pretty cool. Sometimes. Having been an only child for the first 5 years I was pretty good at entertaining myself. I was a TV baby, no doubt. I often happily planted myself in front of the television ignoring many sunny days in a row long before it was cool. I knew by heart which night each show came on, who the stars were and could tell you all about each of the characters.

I whole-heartedly believe that I got a lot of my values from these shows. I was lucky to be born just as the civil rights movement was coming to be accepted 4 years after Dr. King was assassinated. I believe a lot of the music, movies and television shows of the time were a resource in helping the movement along. America was finally being introduced to new non-white, not traditional families. I knew and loved the people on my shows. I really did. They were my friends.

I looked forward to Diff'rent Strokes every week. The two sons were adopted! It was the first time I'd ever met anyone else who was adopted. Beyond that interest I was never asked to believe that there was anything funny about this mixed race family. They were getting used to living together and dealing with normal family issues.

I remember learning that some kids are abused by their parents when Penny on Good Times was discovered to have been hiding her bruises. I was confused and I was genuinely sad for her. I was elated when Willona adopted her. She didn't think about it, she stepped up and did what needed to be done so Penny would be safe. And she was adopted, too! Can you stand it? I now knew three people who were also adopted.

I later met Natalie on Facts of Life. She was also adopted. She made me cry. She made me snotty-faced cry. She said the words that I couldn't seem to put together. She felt the same way I did and knew how to explain it. She said that no one knows what it's like to sit in a baseball stadium and search the faces in the stands to see if they could find a face that looked like them. Of all of the friends I made from television, she became and remained my favorite. She knew how I felt and made it okay to cry with her about it. She was beautiful.

I saw families struggle but was never asked to judge them. On Good Times, James was proud. He worked hard, loved his family and took care of them the best that he could. On One Day at a Time I saw a family led by a single mother. She had it rough but she loved her girls. We were never asked to think less of her because she wasn't married. I grew up to be a single mother. My family was flat out embarrassed and ashamed. I had already learned, though, that I could still plug away and be a good mother by myself.

I learned a lot about race from my television friends. Thank God. I remember laughing at Mr. Jefferson whenever he picked on Tom, his white neighbor whose wife, Helen, was black. But we weren't laughing because Mr. Jefferson was being mean, we were laughing because his insults were given to us with his ignorance and small-mindedness being the joke. This show was a spin off from All in the Family, which had Archie Bunker as the moron racist.

I was fortunate to be the ideal age to receive these shows with a child's naïveté. Through my favorite shows I saw the world as it should've been, not as it was. That is, I'm sure, why I am still confused by narrow people to this day. I am living in a place we haven't yet finished creating.




2 comments:

  1. Really enjoy reading your blogs... deep!

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  2. Thank you so muc, Jamie!. I really feel like writing things out is going to help me find a way to clear my head and find perspective. Thanks for coming along with me! 😊

    ReplyDelete