Why The Waltons Matter Today
Some things change. Some things stay the same.
Back in the early 70s, a television program called The Waltons debuted.
It centered around a family of 3 generations, living during the depression, in rural Virginia on Waltons Mountain and their struggles to get by with little money, but a lot of love.
Our family never missed a week of this show. In the 70s there were no DVD's and no VCR's, so when Thursday night rolled around, I made sure to have dinner and dishes finished before the Walton's came on.
Lately, my daughter, Shannon, has been recording reruns of the show. She does this with several shows from that era and Im fairly certain its because they bring back good memories of her childhood with all all of us and her Nana whom she loved to watch Golden Girls with (so far she hasnt found that one on TV to record!)
So I watched 2 episodes of The Waltons tonight that she had recorded.
I remember often crying when I watched the show back then. Some things never change, I guess. The box of Kleenex was put to good use while I watched tonight.
By today's standards, the way the Waltons lived probably seems quaint, even corny.
Grandparents dont live with children and grandchildren in these days of hectic work and sports and schools and meetings etc. and simple pleasures arent about fishing in Druscilla's pond or walking thru the paths of Waltons Mountain. And there are no Godsey General Mercantile Stores around anymore and God knows we dont drink “the recipe”.
The Waltons were indeed simple people. They relied on the love of family and God to sustain them through hard times and that same love of family and God helped them enjoy the good times.
Their enduring love for the land was the central theme of the show and it was obvious in almost every episode that the draw to Walton's Mountain lay in the never changing hills and mountains, streams and rivers of that mountain where they all were born and lived and in that small house, nestled in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Times were hard for people during the Depression and the war years. I remember watching this show back when it first ran and thinking of my own parents and grandparents and how hard they worked and the struggles they endured so that we could have better lives....so that I could never know what it meant to be truly hungry or without a roof over my head. I know that those years were depicted fairly accurately on The Walton's because often enough, I would hear my grandmothers voice in my head telling me about the shame she felt when she had to accept government cheese or milk. I remember the stories my own mother would tell me of how precious a dime was when she was a little girl during the Depression. So for me, watching this show drew me closer to those who came before me and worked hard so that I could enjoy the life I had.
The Waltons never achieved great monetary wealth, but it was never meant to be about that anyway. The show was meant to celebrate family and love of God and love of the land. It was meant to show us that when everyone pulls together, anything is possible. It was about knowing that there was something always worth working for. That there was satisfaction in doing a good job, hard work but honest work and achieving dreams, no matter how small they may be. It was about teaching children to be part of something greater than themselves. It was about learning responsibility and sharing and contributing to those who needed more than even you might need.
We are, today, products of a massive technology boom. We are an instant society. We dont have to really wait for anything. We can have coffee in mere seconds. No need to put an old coffee pot or even a percolator on the stove and wait for that old, familiar sound to tell you that its ready. We dont grow our own food since going to the grocery store is so much easier. Generations of people have no idea what it feels like to crawl into bed on crisp, cold sheets that smell like sunshine and air because they were dried outside on the line. We marry and divorce because its easy. And we give up on things before we ever really test ourselves to know if we can. And sadly, our society is all too eager to throw away whatever is difficult or just too hard to deal with. We are weak when they were strong and we never fully realize our potential because we never truly allow it to be tested.
Often, grandparents are considered nuisances and easy to ignore. We are too fast paced and too impatient to wait for their slower memories and words, to kick in. Grandparents arent revered and honored the way they should be for their contribution to their families. Back then, grandparents were the link that children needed to connect the dots of their ancestry. Now, grandparents die without anyone really ever asking questions about the who, what, where and why's of their families.
How much have we lost from those days on Walton's Mountain when work was hard and often the payoff was small? The rewards were knowing that you had accomplished something.
Do today's children really understand and appreciate what went before them or is it just assumed that we have the right to whatever we want because its there and available?
Families in those days, ate dinner together. They worked together. They played together. And they were close. They were born and grew up in the same house where generations before them had been born and grew up. They woke up to the smell of bacon frying and coffee brewing and Mama's footsteps waking everyone up for school. They fell asleep knowing that they were connected. They knew that if times got really hard, Grandma had "put up" a whole cupboard full of corn and tomatoes and jellies and beans. They knew that they belonged to something wonderful and good and they were secure. They knew that they had purpose..down to the youngest and up to the oldest. Everyone knew that their own, special contribution, no matter how small, mattered.
Times have changed. We have lost something precious in our glittery, glitzy world of high tech gadgets. We have lost the family and in doing so, we have lost something much greater. And it's a frightening thing because without family, we are nothing more than passing thru this world, not mattering, not leaving our legacy.
We need to get it back before its too late....before we dont recognize, any longer, what has happened to our society.
Yes, The Waltons was probably a pretty corny show. The message that show sent is barely recognizable in our world of pristine perfectionism that we expect from our lives. We would probably make fun of someone who told us that every night, before falling asleep, everyone in their family said goodnight to each other.
Yes, we would find that odd and strange and corny..but deep down inside all of us, I am pretty sure, we would also find it....comforting.