THE WALTONS GO TO SOUTH PARK
Our friend, Kay, spent last weekend at our house. I said, "Let's go to Monticello." She said, "Let's go to the Waltons Museum."
Turns out, the only thing Kay ever watches on TV - and she watches it every night - is The Waltons.
I should mention that Kay is a former nun who finds the real world to be heartbreaking.
And so, we went to the Waltons Museum in Schuyler, Virginia. As we pulled into the parking lot, Kay looked confused. We explained to her that the museum consists of a few sets recreated from the original Waltons sets in Los Angeles.
It's not in that familiar farmhouse on TV, it's in an elementary school.
As we crossed the parking lot, she said, "This is not like it's supposed to be." And she looked so sad.
I pointed to the white house across the road and said, "I think that's the house that Earl Hamner, Jr. grew up in."
"Earl Hamner, Jr. He's the guy who wrote the TV show." And I'm thinking: How does she not know this?
Harry said to her, gently, "Kay, the show is fiction, you know."
I could hear her mind shifting gears. "Okay, but it's based on that man's life, isn't it?"
The conversation continued in this vein as we wandered through the museum, pausing reverently by the roped-off entrances to the Walton's kitchen, their parlor, and John-boy's room.
On the ride back to our house, Kay told us how lucky we are because Harry and I have such a beautiful family, and that for her, we are the real Waltons, not what she's been watching on TV all these years. After all, through the growing-up years we were together every night for supper, and we took the kids to Mass and they all made their First Holy Communion...
That evening I got sick suddenly, and went to bed. (I like to think it was stomach flu, and not guilt at allowing Kay to keep her misperceptions about our family. Everything she said was true, about supper and church, and all. But jeez Louise, no way are we the Waltons.)
Harry and Kay were in the study, below my bedroom. Swing music and jazz from the thirties and forties drifted up through the floor. And then Jackson's car was crunching up our gravel driveway. He was home for the weekend. And I remembered what was supposed to happen next, but all I could do was lie there and groan.
All day, Waldo and Jill couldn't wait for Jack to arrive, because he was bringing a stack of videos... South Park videos. Had I not been so sick, I would have sprinted down stairs and begged Jack to have his South Park festival some other night. Any other night.
In case you've never heard of South Park, it's a cartoon that is emphatically for adults only. It's crude and violent - and very, very funny. I love to sit around with my grown children and watch South Park videos. However, I didn't especially want Kay to know this about our happy little family. Talk about disillusioned... To find out in the course of a single day that The Waltons are fake and that Harry and Janis's children have been raised by wolves. It's too much to bear.
Nearly paralyzed in my bed with nausea, I listened all evening to the twin soundtracks seeping up from downstairs: Harry and Kay's voices along with swing music from the study, and filthy South Park dialogue from the living room.
Please God, keep her out of the living room.
The next morning, I discovered that miraculously, Harry had managed to keep Kay away from the South Park festival in the next room.
So, there you have it. A story with prayer and miracles and family togetherness. Kay returned home with stories, no doubt, to tell about her weekend with a family just like the Waltons.