I have a huge affinity for Mary Tyler Moore; especially the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
I was born in Minnesota, but soon we moved to Michigan. When we returned in my youth for a cousin’s wedding, Dad took great pride in driving us through the intersection at Nicollet Mall and 7th Avenue. I remember being a young girl in the back of the car as he pointed out the exact spot where Mary stood and tossed her hat: a sign of confident independence. I was enthralled. (She’s one of the reasons I love hats so much!)
I grew up with the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Even at a young age, she was someone to recognize: Mary Richards, a single woman. Mary Richards, a career woman. Mary Richards, on her own. She was unlike any other female character on TV. She wasn’t a doting mother or tender wife or the sidekick to any man. She was her own woman. She was successful at it. And she inspired me.
I’d spent years in Michigan, then California. But Minnesota still drew me in. So in my early 20’s, I took a big breath and wrote my Uncle Roger to ask if I could live with him and go to college there. He said yes, and I quickly enrolled at North Hennepin Community College.
You know that opening scene of Mary driving into Minneapolis to start a new life? Yeah. That was me. You know that Lake she walks around in the winter? Been there, done that.
Roger was also a writer. The day I arrived, he had my room set up for me with a NHCC sweatshirt (which I still have in a protective clothes cover); yellow Pee Chee folder, several pens, pencils, and other “student supplies”. He must have had so much fun shopping for me. He also picked up a U of M Gophers fleece throw blanket that I still have; it’s also a favorite.
Because he worked the night shift and I schooled during the days, we mostly only saw each other on the weekends. We would get up early Saturday morning, walk a mile to the local bakery shop where he’d buy us coffee and donuts and we’d get caught up. He always had a bear claw and I always had a Bavarian Creme-Filled donut. He would always say, “I don’t know how you can eat that. They give me the heebie-jeebies.” That’s okay… until a few months ago, I couldn’t understand how he could eat New England Clam Chowder.
Being that close to Minneapolis was a great experience for me. I reconnected with cousins. With culture. With four seasons.
But it was still lonely. I loved my Uncle, but our arrangement was that I would only stay until I found a place of my own, so after Christmas, I moved out. It was my first foray into self-sufficiency, and I was rarely good at it. I often called home to my mom for help, advice, support. I still relied on my weekly Bakery Walk with Roger. But what really did me in was “The Blizzard of the Century”. My second winter, 1991-92, my roommate insisted I wasn’t going to work or school. I insisted I was. Until she made me look out the window. We were on the second floor of a townhouse. The roof next to us held over three feet of snow.
It was the day before Hallowe’en. We didn’t see dry ground until Memorial Day. Needless to say, when I visited home for Christmas and it was 72 degrees outside, and my cat professed her undying affection for me, and my family said how much they missed me… I transferred home to Cal State.
I felt like a failure. I let my Uncle down. I let my family down. I let my college professor down. A scholarship had been created just for me, to join a prestigious writing community in Minneapolis. And I chose to run home instead.
Most of the time I have no regrets. Except when I watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She made it. She was alone, and she succeeded. She was awesome. It always made me miss Minneapolis and my Uncle and my missed chances.
In the past four months I started watching the show again. The first few times, I couldn’t get through the opening sequence without crying. Without thinking of Uncle Roger, and Dad, and how they’re both gone. Without wondering how different things would have been if I’d had the courage to stay. This summer, Mary Tyler Moore made those voids in me seem bottomless.
I had to remind myself that things always work out the way they’re supposed to. I’m truly not sorrowful for choosing to come home to California. My family is here. Dot was born and raised here. So many wonderful adventures have taken place here.
A few months ago, I was overwhelmed. Over a year of unemployment. The death of Dot’s boyfriend. Life struggles. Personality conflicts.
And I just really missed my Uncle. It seemed everywhere I turned, I had reminders of him. Finding old letters. Framing old postcards. Inspired by his Logo. Developed quite a taste for his favorite soup. I miss him.
And I was tired. Tired of all the junk. Tired of being worn out.
Tired of feeling sorry for myself.
I took a deep cleansing breath. Literally. And turned on the TV. Lo and behold, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was just starting. And it actually happened to be the first episode.
I don’t understand what happened in that moment. All I can tell you is something clicked. I realized I had a choice to not feel sorry for myself. As my friend Mary tells me, to get off the Pity Pot.
And suddenly instead of a midlife crisis full of tragedies and missed opportunities, I once again associated with Mary Tyler Moore. Danny told me I have spunk. Megan encouraged my affinity.
I’m not in Minneapolis. I’m not a successful career woman (by the World’s standards).
But I have potential. I have a Cookbook. I have goals. I’m gonna find me a blue knit beret and a #10 Vikings jersey. Lots of them.
Because I’m not finished.
In fact, I’m just beginning. My life isn’t a sad, half-over has-been. My life a fresh, new, potential. Every breathing moment brings new opportunities. I’m willing to step out, to get into the world, to throw my hat into the rink.
And I’ve decided:
I’m Gonna Make It, After All.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!