Monday, October 18, 2010

Good-Bye Mrs. Cleaver

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and...Image via Wikipedia
When I returned from Blog World 2010 I went out to dinner with my husband. In the middle of dinner he gave me the news that Barbara Billingsley had passed away this past Saturday, October 16. This is sad news; you see if you are a baby-boomer then Mrs. Cleaver was probably part of your life. She first came into our homes on October 4, 1957.  I turned eight the next day.

By 1957 my sisters and I already knew Jane Wyatt as Margaret Anderson (Father Knows Best) and Harriet Nelson (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) and soon we would meet Donna Reed (The Donna Reed Show).  I clearly remember my father saying to us: "Why is Jim Anderson always right?"  These were all great shows, but the truth is Leave It To Beaver is the survivor, simply because it was so well-written and in syndication it is still enjoyed by viewers every day of the year.

Growing up I think most of my friends had Leave it to Beaver moments. You know the kind. You've done something that you know you are expressly forbidden to do and then you wait for your parents to discover your transgression.  Hmmm, like walking to school as first grader with my two older sisters. Joann decided it would be a good idea to walk through the huge flood channel that went under a major road. It was a shortcut. The next day we were disciplined by our mother who had been informed by a neighbor that he saw us walking through the storm drain! (Our mother did not admit her source for many years...just to keep us on our toes.)  Or how about being convinced by your two older sisters that it is a great idea for me an eighth-grader  to shave my legs. Within in an hour of being home my mother knew what had occurred. When I queried her about how she figured it out, she explained: "Judy, your blue jeans are rolled-down and there are mysterious blood spots on the bathroom floor."

Today we talk about Seinfeld, Everyone Loves Raymond, or Friends moments, but I have to say that I still will recall Leave it to Beaver moments. A month or so ago, Jorja White came home to find that her youngest daughter had cut her own hair. When she questioned her husband had he noticed that MH's hair looked funny, he said he hadn't noticed. I reminded Jorja of the Leave it to Beaver episode "Beaver gets a haircut."  The clip below doesn't show Mrs. Cleaver's reaction. But it will give you a sense of how clever Leave it to Beaver was...

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here. Here's the thing: I never met Barbara Billingsley. She was really my mother's peer, born in 1915 just two and half-years older than my mom. Like Barbara, my mom had blondish hair and blue eyes; however, she didn't wear pearls and pretty dress to clean the house. But my mom liked June Cleaver, she enjoyed watching the show with us and I am sure my Mom and Dad were happy that we learned a lot about life by sharing one-half hour per week with the Cleavers.

Tomorrow I will be back to report on #BWE10 (Blog World Expo 2010) but just for tonight I want to say good-bye to Mrs. Cleaver and I want to share with you one of my favorite photos of my mother. Here she is at a baby shower given in her honor in May 1956.  She is pregnant with my brother and I don't think she ever looked more radiant. (By the way, she only had two maternity outfits - this very fancy one, a more casual navy blue outfit. Day to day she wore wrap-around house dresses.) 


ridgely johnson said...

What a glorious post of tribute to June Cleaver- she stands for the "housewife" I secretly yearn to be ;-)

Judy Helfand said...

I think when I was little I wanted my mom to dress just like Mrs. Cleaver. We had one neighbor, Doris A, whose home was always in order, beautifully decorated. I would play with her children, Jack and Peggy. I remember that every afternoon Mrs. A would start dinner, then take a shower and get ready for Mr. A to come home. She was just like Mrs. Cleaver. Of course, I also remember when Jack managed to set a small fire in the canyon near our homes!!!


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