Hello. My name is Cricket, and I watch The Waltons.
It began slowly. At first I’d stop for a while if I ran across an episode on television, remembering way back when I watched it with my great-grandmother.
Eventually I became aware of what time I could “run across” it.
Then one day I stepped off the cliff: I searched for it in the satellite guide. It wasn’t my fault that it airs five times a week. And I swear my finger pressed that Record All button of its own volition.
But I could rationalize it. Really, I could. See, for many evenings I’d been watching a Criminal Minds episode before going to bed. Criminal psychology is fascinating. The characters are interesting. The writing is pretty good. Plus, crime television = research for a mystery writer.
Then, duh, it dawned on me that watching bloody murder scenes and witnessing the darkest side of the human mind, even in fiction, right before going to bed was not exactly the best fodder for sleep. Or for dreams. And let’s face it: I don’t write about serial killers. I write about people who make soap, knit, and cook a lot who also solve small-town murders.
The Walton’s are a much better choice for evening viewing, then. Not only is John Boy (Richard Thomas) a writer (Hellloooo – any other mystery writers out there whose guilty pleasure was watching Jessica Fletcher type best-selling mysteries at her kitchen table? Huh? I thought so…) but his mother (Michael Learned) churns butter on the front step, makes cheese and, along with Grandma (Ellen Corby), makes clothes for eleven people.
Eleven people. Good Lord. That’s Grandma’s favorite expression, btw. Sure enough, Monday is wash day for all those dirty clothes. (And for dinner on Tuesdays they usually have corn chowder and apple fritters. Please don’t ask how I know that.)
Grandma makes soap in the front yard, boiling it in a big kettle over a wood fire just like my great-grandmother used to do in her dirt driveway in small-town Wyoming. Grandpa (Will Geer) plants tree nurseries on the mountain to repopulate the wood they harvest for the sawmill. They don’t look like those weirdly homogenous replantings in some clear cuts of Washington state, either. Maybe the folks at Weyerhaeuser should be watching The Waltons, too.
The writing is downright decent. I mean, it’s fiction, sure. How else would things turn out so nicely at the end? Or not, as sometimes happens – which I also like. The stories are, for the most part, pretty small, yet universal enough that anyone can relate to them. And they’re based on Earl Hamner’s upbringing. That he narrates the show he created is an added bonus.
As an only child, the idea of a family with seven children figuring things out and working together hooks me in. I love to see how they manage in the Depression – feeding themselves, making do, being creative, being part of a community, and being individuals in addition to part of a whole.
They don’t whine or complain. Not because they’re saints, or always happy, but because complaining isn’t useful. If anyone even starts to gripe about something, they’re taken to task because it’s childish, it’s no help, and it saps everyone else’s energy and happiness.
Heck, that’s enough of a lesson to take away.
This series lasted ten years, and I’m still in the early days. As I recall plenty of change and tragedy ensues down the line. I’ll be watching, because:
My name is Cricket, and I watch The Waltons.