The Lady of the House

Jane Wyatt, Barbara Billingsley, June Lockhart. Those were the TV mothers who helped raise us boomers. Every hair in place, pearls and high heels to do the laundry.

It wasn't real, but it wasn't as unreal as it seems now. While some of our moms were more like a Jean Shepherd short story heroine of the open hearth, moms did wear pearls and high heels beyond the church pew or the rare night out. It was a dressier time for many of the Ladies of the House.

I'll never forget the time, or at least I haven't yet, when I looked up from a tired trudge up a NATPE aisle to find Barbara Billingsley offering me milk and cookies. My TV inner life had somehow melded with reality, a Douglas Adams moment when the universe might explode as the matter-of-fact of another convention floor met the anti-matter-of-fact of Beaver's mom, dressed to the nines–offering me an after-school snack.

It didn't explode, but I got my cookie. And I didn't even have to confess to having sent away for 24 cases of shoe polish to make enough money selling door to door to buy her a birthday present.

I remember this today because Jane Wyatt has died, pulling a couple more threads from the TV tapestry of our lives.

A couple because not only was she Margaret Anderson to our best-knowing father, but she played a gem of a wife/mother refereeing the complicated relationship between two headstrong Vulcans.

There were mothers you wanted to marry–Dennis the Menace's (was it Gloria Henry?), or Whitney Blake on Hazel. And then there were the mothers you wouldn't mind trading for on tough days when baseballs had collided with new vases in the real world. Jane Wyatt was one of those, perhaps the best of those.

She was also a fine actress, and if her obit is to be believed, and I believe it, a good person as well.

By John Eggerton