How can a girl be blamed for baneful behavior when she has sat in front of the television tube absorbing the antics that shows like Dark Shadows and Have Gun, Will Travel presented? It was right around my seventeenth year of living when I subconsciously ran away. Never mind that I had every reason to take off after residing in a suburban Twilight Zone, where three sibling dames and six Dukes of Hazard were totally on top of me and my every move. Our Family Affair was a minefield. I would have liked more of a Laugh-In.
One high school chum and I thought the Days of Our Lives needed spontaneity and seeing what was beyond our stifling ranch style homes. It was characteristic of Bonanza, as if Little Joe was going to saunter in applauding our impetuous efforts to run wild and free. We were destined to play all day hooky then go see Jethro Tull in a downtown Detroit concert hall. And without so much as a mention to my makers where the teens in transit were going or that we would be gone for enough hours to put out an APB. I shoved my job aside and called in sick. Except that my curious boss unexpectedly phoned my house wondering how The Fugitive was feeling. I had a legitimate excuse. I woke up in a great mood and didn’t want to ruin it by going to work. I told him that I had contracted a severely infectious disease that was currently wreaking havoc on my household. In closing arguments, The Flying Nun messed up. And Patty Duke did some pretty intense scheming at times.
Parents fear that their daughters will get caught up in the shark-infested streets of the city. Where some girls might seek out thrills and fortune from street corner johns, this Maverick just wanted to hear some brilliant flute playing. Different Strokes for different folks I suppose. I like to say that a kid as innocent as the Beav got lured away by a female Eddie Haskell, or got Lost in Space. No one was going to believe the latter. Yet I had already moved on from Petticoat Junction to leather hot pants and platform heeled music theatres, though not yet ready for pimping myself out 77 times on a Sunset Strip. I was sure my parents Ozzie & Harriet wouldn’t have wanted me coming to them saying, “I’ve Got A Secret!”
Thank goodness my covetous caretakers didn’t call the Highway Patrol. The next thing we knew, we were plucked off the concert steps after closing and were returned to our rightful owners. I decided to Get Smart and go home to my Little House on the Prairie with none other than my uncle, who showed up depicted as Baretta. Dad didn’t come looking for me. It was the final night of hockey season. And Mom was too busy worrying and chugging a whole bottle of Chablis. I’m sure she was commiserating with Del Shannon, wa wa wa wa wondering why I ran away, and where I would stay.
I came home to a Bunch of lined up Brady’s ready to take jabs at me, right before they had my picture plastered all over milk cartons and got rid of all my stuff. With primeval gypsy articulation, I choked out the clarification that my girly friend was running away and I didn’t want her going alone. It was the truth. I doubt the speakers of the house believed me because they started mimicking Lassie by barking orders. They sounded like government interrogators with their systematic torture, ready to detain me for the rest of my tormented teen life. If we had lived on a Love Boat, I wouldn’t have had this much difficulty adapting to squalls. Although with my girlfriend fleeing her more turbulent household, I figured she didn’t have near as many Happy Days as I did.
My parents could have survived an earth shattering Scud missile, but not have their precious perfect Catholic daughter tainted by improper escapades. They would have preferred that I stayed chained in the dungeon…had our home been blessed with a basement. But I did have restricted air space within the confines of my bedroom with three sisters, and six Bewitched brothers whom every hour would open and slam my bedroom door and sometimes throw in a reptile, leaving me to be tortured by a blunt snouted scaly aggressor with freakish skin warts. I’d Dream of a Genie with high hopes that my every rub of the lantern would eliminate it, and my brothers. It was a painful transition from being worldly to becoming an imprisoned criminal. There was something very Alfred Hitchcock-y about it because throughout my formative years, I was told that there wasn’t a monster in the closet or under the bed.
My parents taught me The Facts of Life. But my pouty lips were prone towards kissing, largely due to the productions of Dallas and Knots Landing. I could have done worse than swapping saliva and running off for a day. Lucky for them I was just an American Bandstand-er, rock and rolling nights away on dance floors. My parents should have been grateful that I didn’t turn into little miss sure shot like Annie Oakley. Who knows if they considered disowning me, wanting to send me off in a Taxi to go live with pedigree that might mirror The Munster’s or The Addam’s Family, where I would have parents like Morticia and Gomez and an Uncle Fester providing me with maniacal life lessons. I would have been very leery of having another Pugsly type brother who pulled villainous pranks.
Once released from the bedroom shackles, I never cruised The Outer Limits again. However, I will be going to hell for making my parents sweat for fifteen hours. I’m thankful that my uncle didn’t come after me in a moving vehicle, making me a casualty of domestic war. Although ending up in a surgical care M*A*S*H unit under the watchful eyes of Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John would have been Good Times. They would have had mascara running down my face in a matter of minutes. I would rather have died from injury and laughing than be killed by my parents.
Adding to the list of influences, Lucy and Red Skelton have most certainly left lasting side effects as well. We are what we watch.