Dear Mary Richards
Photo by Michael Dar
It’s so crazy I was just talking about you last night.
I am having a dinner party this weekend and I am worried nobody is going to show up. Do you remember when you used to have parties and the only people that came were Sue Ann and Ted and Murray and Lou…a little drunk?
Mary, do you remember every Saturday night at 8 pm? I was maybe 11 years old and I couldn’t wait for my parents to go out so I could have you and Rhoda all to myself. It was the best 30 minutes of the week.
Who can turn the world on with a smile…? Do you remember getting dressed in your closet? You would come out in these fabulous outfits: a pleated skirt and a black turtleneck. So effortless. So chic. I wanted my mom to dress like you.
Realizing this might sound creepy, I wanted to be you, Mary Richards.
Because of you, my friend, June Cleaver was no longer on my radar screen. Because of you I grew up wanting to “make it on my own.” I wanted to curl up with you and Rhoda and Phyllis and her quirky daughter Bess and just chat. I wanted to get dressed in my very own closet and emerge as Mary Richards.
I used to imagine living your life. You were (obviously) unaware that an 11 year old in Cincinnati was “channeling” you, but let me just say thank you for setting the stage. Thank you for showing me that “with each glance and every little movement you show it…love is all around.”
Because of you I have grown up singing that song, throwing my silly hat in the air, always believing, belting it out: “You’re going to make it after all!”
This has been the theme song of my life. You were that “girl.” Smart, yet slightly insecure. Pretty, but unaware. Awkward, but authentic. Independent, but not alone. Everyone liked you.
I truly believe I went into the TV News business because of you. I distinctly remember being 25 years old. I was on the air for the first time in Cincinnati, Ohio. Channel 5, WLWT-TV circa 1988. I remember sitting at the TV anchor desk, only 60 seconds away before the opening of News 5 Today. I was so nervous. I was wearing a black turtleneck. I probably should have been thinking about what I was going to say in 60 seconds. I couldn’t even remember my name I was so nervous.
But to this day, I honestly remember saying to myself. Mary Richards would be so proud of me. I work in a newsroom! Thank you! Besides, in my mind you were always rooting me on. You were always so nice. I loved that about you!
Over the years, you have made me laugh and cry and somehow truly believe “I can make it on my own….”
In fact, I have written a lot about you in the past year. When I packed up my all alone “empty nest” life last year and moved to Chicago, I downloaded the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song and played it over and over. Even though I was 53 years old I kept thinking “I am the modern Mary Richards. She would be so proud. We would be friends.”
If only television were real life, I might have learned what happened after the last episode, when you turned off the lights in the newsroom. (I cried that night). Would you have found your dream man, gotten married, had a career, raised a family? Would you always be friends with Rhoda and Phyllis? Or maybe you and Murray would have ended up together? (Didn’t he end up on the Love Boat?)
Anyway, I have thought about you so many times, Mary Richards.
I have also thought about you so many times as Mary Tyler Moore. The beautiful talented actress– elegantly poised, “brave face” no matter how hard it seemed. You magically pulled everything off with style and aplomb.
But obviously TV isn’t real life and we don’t get to write the endings.
I know that real life has shown you the highest moments and phenomenal success. And with that has also come incredible loss and unimaginable despair. I have often wondered how you managed it all.
Perhaps now you have written your own last episode, turning off the lights, exiting with dignity and grace.
Mary Richards or Mary Tyler Moore, you will forever be a friend I never had the chance to meet. You will forever be the girl from Minneapolis “who turned the world on with a smile.”
You will be missed. Always.
Reprinted with permission from Stuff of Life Blog. See original post here:
Lauren Chesley is a contributor to LEAD Cincinnati, Venue Magazine and Make it Better, is writing her first book and blogging along the way about the journey of being "unapologetically you" post-50 at www.stuffoflifeblog.com.