As I grow older, I'm learning to appreciate the job my parents did, raising six children on one and a half incomes.
They accomplished this goal by living frugally, saving for major purchases and having as little debt as possible. Spacing children three years apart from 1948 to 1967, with the exception of a six year gap between myself and my youngest brother, the final child, the three bedroom house was full -- sometimes very full.
But we were all happy (when we weren't fighting), received love, attention, clothing, food and a place to sleep.
I think there is an affinity sometimes to romanticize the past, selectively remembering the good and forgetting the bad. As we age, this nostalgic disconnect seems to grow, and the "when I was your age" stories arise, giving the younger generation something to lampoon.
But, as a broad generality, I feel that my generation, the vaunted baby boom after WWII, had a pretty good childhood. Our parents grew up during the Great Depression and knew firsthand what it was like to go without basic necessities. When they had their children, benefitting from post-war prosperity, the baby boomers were lavished with attention and material possessions.
It is a seemingly genetic trait that the parent sacrifices nearly anything and everything in order for their children to have a better life. My grandparents did so for my parents, my parents did the same for me, and I did the same for my children. I am sure that they will do the same for their children.
The nobility of this action is one of the things that makes it special to be a parent, although no parent (or child) fully realizes what is being done for them until they are put in the situation where they are making sacrifices for their children.
This was all brought to my mind this week with the passing of Barbara Billingsley and Tom Bosley.
Billingsley died over the weekend at age 97. She is remembered by many for the role she played for six seasons on television. She was June Cleaver, the quintessential mom of the baby boomers, on "Leave it to Beaver." While the show ran on network television for six seasons, it has lived in syndication for decades.
June Cleaver, resplendent in her dresses and pearl necklace, fretted and fawned over her two sons and always had supper ready on the table when husband Ward came home from work.
Often deried by the feminist movement, Billingsley's character remains an iconic image of motherhood. I suspect she will remain this way for as long as the show remains airing, which could be quite some time.
Earlier this week, Tom Bosley, the actor who portrayed Howard Cunningham on ABC's "Happy Days" for a decade, died at age 83. Bosley's "Mr. C" was the patriarch of the Cunningham family, a patient father who didn't let much get by him. He also served as a surrogate father figure for Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli, the cool greaser biker.
These two television parents emulated what went on in millions of homes during the 1950s, the formative years of the baby boomers. They were invloved and engaged parents, ready to give advice as well as dole out punishment. But the overarching theme of parents that were kind and benevolent, wiling to be understanding when mistakes were made was a common thread in both programs.
There's a reason these two sitcoms lasted as long as they did in their first runs, as well as continuing to be popular in syndication. The common themes of the challenges of growing up and choosing right from wrong will never go out of style. The era the shows are set in may seem like a million years ago to the children of today, but if they give them a chance, there are some timeless lessons to be learned.
Thanks for worrying about the Beav, Mrs. Cleaver. Mr. C, thanks for being there for those late night talks.
Your extended family appreciated you being there.
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