Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Front Porches and Sunday Dinners

An actor died today. He was an actor that played a hayseed recruit getting into a peck of trouble trying to make it into the army. He was an actor who played the main role in a television series about a small-town sheriff with a big heart and the wisdom of Solomon. He was an actor that advertised Ritz Crackers ("mmmmmmmmm...gooood cracker....") He was an actor that played a lawyer in the big city who was usually the smartest man in the room. But to simply say we're lamenting the loss of an actor certainly doesn't explain why we feel so empty. Why ARE we all feeling the loss of a person we didn't know? I think it's because right here on the eve of our country's birthday, we've lost a part of something that is quintessentially "American." And it has been for several generations. You may not have been able to talk rock & roll with your elders. You may not have been able to talk politics or religion with them (because they surely weren't as enlightened as you!) But you could all sit in the same room and watch Andy Griffith together. It's hard to not first think of Sheriff Andy Taylor when thinking about Andy Griffith's body of work. Mayberry is a world where drug stores still make milkshakes and businesses close on Sundays. It is a world where every dinner is a Sunday dinner and all the world's problems can be solved while sitting and relaxing on somebody's front porch. It is a place where kids still play outside barefooted and human interaction involves handshakes on sidewalks and cups of coffee. Notice I refer to Mayberry in the present tense. I feel compelled to because, though the actor that brought the town to life is now gone, the hope that this perfect spot surely still exists somewhere hasn't yet died. It serves not only as an "ideal" of someplace we'd like to live but of what we strive to be. And that just might live forever in the hearts of those who have watched the same reruns over and over and over and laughed and cried just as hard as we did the very first time we watched them. I'm pretty sure Andy Griffith would tell us all to quit being sad. He'd probably tell us all to go to the filling station and get a bottle of pop and then wander over to the movie house and watch them change the sign on the marquis. It lowered my blood pressure just typing about such things.

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