Ever since I moved several states away from my mom and dad, holidays dedicated to parents tend to depress me. And so Mother's Day is this weekend and I wish I could do so much more for my mom than give her a phone call and send flowers (along with some macaroons from Sucré, of course). I wish that several hundred dollars would magically appear in my lap so that I could buy a plane ticket to go see her.
Since I'm about 99.99999 percent sure that is not going to happen, I've decided to drown my sorrows in a few throwback TV episodes from my childhood that feature awesome moms. As I was thinking about great mothers from shows that I grew up watching, I realized that there's no shortage of cool dads on TV, but there's really only a handful of all-around awesome moms. A lot of moms are written as nagging control-freaks (like Jill on "Home Improvement" or Patty on "My So-Called Life"), and then the others are basically just stock characters, representing traditional gender roles and the "natural" nurturing perfect housewife, such as on "Leave it to Beaver" or "The Brady Bunch."
More often than not, it seems that if a woman wanted to have an interesting personality in a TV role, she had to be single, like Mary Tyler Moore. If you were a mom, you were either a nag or stamped out of a cookie cutter.
Here are a few of my favorite TV shows that had moms who pushed the envelope a bit.
I grew up thinking that the Keatons were an ideal couple. For one, they lived in Columbus, Ohio (where I'm from). For two, they were both hippies back in the day, with Elyse being a liberal feminist. Also, I wanted her to be my mother-in-law one day because I had a huge crush on her son, Alex P. And can I just say that, wow, do a girl's tastes change over the years. I went from being in love with a clean-cut short Republican (and a fictional character to boot) to preferring shaggy tall liberal types.
I still watch "Golden Girls" and could probably quote whole episodes verbatim. My grandmother and I used to watch the show every Friday night and it's interesting to go back and watch the show again as an adult to see everything that went right over my little head. All four ladies were moms and grandmothers, but my favorite was always Dorothy because of her deadpan comments and sarcasm. Also, she can make me bust out laughing just by raising her eyebrow to one of Rose's St. Olaf stories.
Roseanne Conner from "Roseanne"
Roseanne was awesome because it actually seemed like a "normal" family: a working-class family scraping by and hilarity ensues. I also loved the show because my grandma had the exact same crotchet blanket as the one draped across the Conners' couch. I remember when the show came out and Roseanne was considered to be totally over-the-top vile and unfeminine, but now if you go back and watch the show, it seems pretty mild in comparison to some of the things we're used to these days. Her role as a mom and wife wasn't tightly woven with being attractive and traditional. I dug that.
Dr. Quinn from "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman"
When I was a kid, "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" was my favorite show. If there's anyone who was progressive, it was Dr. Quinn. She was a doctor in the 1870s as well as an adoptive mother to her best friend's three kids. And she stood up for everyone, even Walt Whitman when he came to town. She also treated Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers; how awesome is that? Plus, she married that total hottie Sully.
Lucille Bluth from "Arrested Development"
"Arrested Development" obviously wasn't on when I was a kid, but I had to give Lucille Bluth a shout-out because while she's the matriarch of a seriously deranged family, she's also one of my favorite characters ever in the history of me watching television. I can't express how excited I am that the show is coming back. If she doesn't do her version of the chicken dance, I'll be sorely disappointed.
Clair Huxtable from "The Cosby Show"
Clair Huxtable had to have been magic. She's the very definition of "having it all," something that my generation of fellow women were brought up to think we'd be able to have, but no one actually explained to us how impossible it would be. Clair made it look so easy. She was a highly successful lawyer and the wife of a seriously awesome and funny doctor who loved her and respected the hell out of her. She also had five children and lived in a beautiful brownstone in NYC. And she spoke fluent spanish. Plus, she did all of this while being gorgeous and not looking at all like she was old enough to have an adult-aged child like Sandra. Also, the woman was sharp as a tack with some serious wit. She's the one who first taught me about feminism while firing back at Elton's (Sandra's boyfriend at the time) sexist comments. Yep, I still want to be Clair Huxtable when I grow up.
Seriously though, setting all of these fictional characters aside, my real-life mom is seriously amazing. She's the kindest and one of the strongest and most beautiful women I've come across in this lifetime. I somehow won the parents jackpot for my time here on planet Earth. My mom supported every crazy idea I had in my head (and there were many) and also let me pick out my own clothes when I was little, which is probably why the kids at school thought I was a little weird, but that's cool. She allowed me and my brother to embrace our eccentricities, and I appreciate that so much because it helped me to really know who I am.
I wish I could go back to Ohio to see her for Mother's Day, but since that doesn't seem to be in the cards, I'll just have to say Happy Mother's Day, Mom! Love you, mean it.
I hope all the moms out there have a great time this weekend!