“I reckon I don’t have much to give but my stories,” Grandma said to John Boy as she sat on the bed beside him and wished for a better gift to give her eldest grandson. John Boy reassured her that the gift was the inherent love of storytelling passed down from generations of her elders through her to him. In that tender moment on Walton’s Mountain, John Boy told Grandma that he cherished her. She took his hand, stared lovingly into his eyes, and uncharacteristically for a woman often called sharp-tongued, she said simply, “And I cherish you, John Boy.”
It was good television then. It is good television now in reruns. It is also a lot more.
I miss the time when acts of love were this pure and the noises of the world were hushed by simple truths. I actually remember such a time. I want “The Waltons” to be real again, to walk beside my daddy in rolling green pastures as he calls the cows up from the branch below in his special way, a series of yodeling sounds strung together by short pauses. He knelt down onto the grassy carpet of the hillside beneath him and I did the same, a little boy mimicking every gesture, sound, and movement his daddy made. Many years separate me from those moments on that hillside, but in my mind it remains forever just as it was then.
I want more moments such as those. The world evolves, growing by the minute with more people and newer methods of communication. I submit, however, with all of the ways to connect today, we have never been more disconnected from those we love. Imagine Mary Ellen sending a text to Elizabeth down at Ike’s General Store to remember milk or perhaps Grandpa face-timing the whole family from Charlottesville to say he would be home by sundown. It’s nice to have that convenience, but somehow it seems removed from the fabric that weaved the family close together, both the television family and my own.
When I was a child, we kept time by noticing where the sun was overhead. Our mamas wrote letters in cursive or talked on the party line to friends across the creek. We told the other children scary stories we had heard of great big panthers that came out of the swamp at night or swapped funny stories about Mr. Clinton riding through the pea patch not knowing his cigarette had sparked the empty vodka bottles, igniting a fire in the backseat of his red convertible. Yes, that really happened.
We communicated without a single emoji. We laughed out loud the real way without a single “lol” being texted. We were present in each other’s lives. I cherish those forgotten ways and remember a language that was all our own, and like Grandma Walton looking for a gift for John Boy, I reckon I don’t have much to give but my stories.
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