By: Dennis Bates
When I was a kid I always envied Wally and the Beaver. Actually, the Beaver’s real name for television purposes was Theodore and he was the focal point for “Leave it to Beaver,” which is still one of my favorite television shows of all time. He and his older brother Wally lived in a tidy little house in a tidy little neighborhood much like the house and neighborhood where I grew up..
What I envied most was the fact that their parents, Ward and June Cleaver, were as tidy as the house and the neighborhood they all lived in. Ward went off to work every day in his modest coat and tie, carrying his brief case to some sort of important office job. He was almost always soft spoke and even tempered and left home and came back on a fairly regular schedule.
Multi tasking was still a plague of the future, minivans had not been invented, cell phones weren’t de rigueur for every precocious First Grader who aspired to get into the “right” schools, and in short, life was simpler, almost sane. At least that’s the way I remember it.
But mostly I envied the fact that June was always there waiting for Beaver when he got home from school. His first words were often, “Gee, Mom, something sure smells good.” Sometimes it was a plate of cookies just for him, sometimes it was the pot roast for the family dinner, but no matter what it was, his mother was there with a cheery smile to tell him about it, and she always looked happy to see him.
Even in those days the show was a middle class fantasy, but I loved embracing it for a half hour each week. My mother taught school and my father worked for the government. When I came home at night, nobody was there. I always wanted my mother to be there like June Cleaver was, and frankly, I resented the fact that she wasn’t.
I know, that’s the first definition of male chauvinism, and maybe it isn’t fair. After all, women have a right to pursue careers and personal interests too, and my mother did. I never really had trouble intellectually with the concept of women working because my mother set the example before working was cool. She even enlisted in the Navy during WWII and did lots of jobs that men traditionally did. I’ve always been impressed with that and proud of her because of it, but that doesn’t alter the fact that I missed having my mother there when I got home to give me a bowl of hot soup on a subzero day and ask me how school went.
Was that selfish of me? You bet it was; I know that. I had a great mother who spent lots of time taking care of her three children and my father. We were her pride and joy and no grandmother anywhere loved her grandchildren more than she did. So I wasn’t neglected by any means. Far from it. I was one of the fortunate ones, even if I had to learn to open the can and heat up my own bowl of soup…without a microwave.
Today, we make time for almost every kind of event to make our children better athletes, better students, or better at something. Couldn’t we set aside one night a week, a month, or even a year, so that part of the Cleaver fantasy survives, so that children can have the opportunity to come home and simply meet the open, loving arms of their mother and say in wide-eyed innocence, “Gee, Mom, something sure smells good.”