Personal Note On Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again: spring has finally arrived and I feel like cleaning out my cupboards, closet and shelves. I look at new (vintage) dresses and dust off my heels, I start looking for flowers and I’m back to cooking leaner meals.

When I grew up, I have to admit, I never grasped the meaning of spring cleaning. I knew my grandma did it with abandon and what was important to her has always mattered to me, but somehow the rejuvenating effect escaped me until a few years ago. I don’t know what started it, maybe I’ve just been getting older (and a little wiser I would hope), but now, spring cleaning starts my new year like I was always taught it would.

So along with scrubbing my floors and clearing out my basement, I also go through my boxes and files, my pictures and books, my movies and shows. And each year seems to awaken something new: a project, a friendship or a journey.

The funny thing about my spring cleaning is that it’s a process – though joyful and humbling at times, it also comes with a melancholy side. Last year at this time, I was mending my heart that had started to break the year before. This year, I feel like striking roots while looking for a change, a feeling that ties in with something I once read when I was still a kid, that most women have two hearts beating in their chest, that they have ambiguous feelings about marriage, career and motherhood.

I remember soaking up those words without understanding them, after all, I’d been taught that we could have it all. But when I was little, my mother was a housewife and my grandma retired, and I greatly cherished their presence. My mother returned to work as I got older, working part time without leaving the house before I’d been off to school. When I came home, she was always there with steaming food on the table and open ears to hear about my day. Now, I often remember how safe a feeling that was, how cushioned I felt, and I’m beginning to crave to create the same kind of haven for a family of my own. At the same time, however, I love to work and cherish having a career. Or to say it in my words: do I want to be a Barbie Hale or Della Street?

So far, I haven’t minded walking on the Della Street side of life (without having found a darling boss like Perry Mason or excelling at secretarial duties as naturally as his perfect girl Friday – fiction aside). But what if I’m craving to have more in life than that? How do I adopt that Babs Hale attitude I am so fond of, that “I chased him till he caught me” poise to use it on the Bill Williams of my heart who seems to be as shy as Our Miss Brooks‘ Mr Boynton? How do I get to be a Lucille Ball with a spoon of Lucy Ricardo, or a Donna Reed with a dash of Donna Stone? How do I learn to walk that tightrope Ms Hale and Hearty once described, that fine line between devoting yourself to having a family and being your own woman who leads a creative life?

You see, I’ve always taken great comfort and found inspiration in reading about female lives in times so different from ours today and yet so alike. My love for vintage was born this way, instilled by my grandma and our close-knit relationship.

My grandmother was born in 1916, a working mom of two girls who lost her son early on. She was married, of course, and yet juggled the household, her kids and the job she had been trained to do all on her own. By law, she wasn’t the head of her family, but she sure had to act as one. And when her health was troubling her, she didn’t have time to complain or rest, nor did she want to burden her family. What she really loved was cooking for us and our extended family, a whole apartment full of people at times. She never tired of running around to get more dishes, to serve more booze or cigarettes (yes, those were the days).

As a kid, I remember marveling at her in her apron dress, getting up early to follow a tight schedule every day. She always put her loved ones first and herself last without ever subordinating her personality. Like me, she loved Perry Mason and together we watched the TV movies with great pleasure (and a conjoint crush on Ray Burr), one of my favorite memories because Della Street has always reminded me so much of my grandma’s humble, demure attitude, her commitment and quiet joy.

I was truly blessed to have someone in my life who was always there for me, who understood me so deeply, who spoiled and loved me no matter what. I’ve been missing that a lot since she’s passed away –  the values and the trust she raised me with, her concept of family, love and community. I suppose that’s the question for me to answer this year, how to (re)create something that has been lost?

Now that’s my personal note on spring cleaning – apart from cupboards, sewing and dishes.

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The Ann Sothern Show

TV classics: The Ann Sothern Show

USA 1958-61, 3 seasons,  93 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Cast: Ann Sothern, Ann Tyrrell, Don Porter, Jesse White, Jack Mullaney, Ernest Truex, Reta Shaw

Plot summary: Katy O’Connor is the assistant manager of the Bartley House hotel in New York City where she has to deal with her friend/roommate/secretary Olive, the hotel staff, peculiar guests and her quirky boss(es).

Review: The Ann Sothern Show was a TV show that followed another TV series called Susie aka Private Secretary starring most of the same cast including its leading lady. Although the setting and plot had been changed, in a way Ann Sothern’s Katy O’Connor picked up where Susie MacNamara had left off due to contract issues which ended an otherwise successful show. Once again, Ann Sothern played a funny and capable character who was surrounded by mayhem and mishaps at the workplace.

Supported by her Private Secretary colleague Ann Tyrrell starring as Katy O’Connor’s best friend Olive, Miss Sothern performed her way through an entertaining set of ninety-three episodes with an otherwise changing cast. After battling with her first boss Jason Macauley (beautifully portrayed by Ernest Truex) for a good run of twenty-three shows, Ann Sothern was reunited with another co-star from her previous series, Don Porter, who was again cast as her love interest boss, complementing Miss Sothern’s comedic talent and style.

Apart from the show’s decent cast, The Ann Sothern Show welcomed a bunch of lovely guest stars, including Cesar Romero and I Love Lucy‘s own Lucille Ball. Produced by Desilu Productions, the show was predestined to feature the famed Lucy Ricardo as Katy O’Connor’s friend to answer Ann Sothern’s previous appearance on The Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz Hour as Private Secretary‘s Susie MacNamara. Both cameos belonged to the first crossovers in TV history and are still great fun to watch.

Unfortunately, The Ann Sothern Show has not yet been released on DVD and reruns or online streamings are rare. I hope that the show will get a chance to shine again in the near future, because not only is it fondly remembered by Ann Sothern fans, but the show itself also has the potential to easily win over a whole new audience who appreciates genuine comedic talent.