By Haley Sakuma.
I’ll always remember the painfully awkward interactions between my mother and my high school dates: Them standing stiffly outside the front door because they weren’t ever invited inside. My mother, all squinted eyes and crossed arms, calculating whether to paint a big red X or a green checkmark on their forehead. Me standing between them, ready to intervene like a hockey referee before a fight breaks out. Good times!
The Donna Reed Show digs memories like this one up and lays them out before our eyes, even 55 years after its last episode. When the beloved sitcom aired, my parents had not been born. Yet, I am 21 years old today, moved out of my parents’ home, and surprisingly relating my life to those of the Stone family. It’s magical for a show to transcend decades of television and remain as relevant as The Donna Reed Show has all these years.
In “Worried Anyone?” (Season 3, Episode 7), Mary readies herself for a boy to pick her up for a date. Is there anything worse than pre-date anxiety? Judging by my past experiences and Mary’s pacing, I’d argue there isn’t. But the cloud of worry that lingers over the Stone household isn’t solely derived from date jitters. Mary warns her parents that her date’s car is a bit of a clunker, which may be an understatement — Scotty’s car must stay running at all times, the radiator constantly needs water added to it, and the trunk is loaded with cement to keep it grounded. But what’s there to worry about? At least it has tires… Alex is sure to verify that fact.
After assuring his wife that Mary will be fine and that the date’s car will hold up, he begins to mistrust his own judgment. He struggles to find sleep while Mary is out and he even calls Scotty’s father in a panicked state. He drinks all of the milk in the house to calm his nerves. Alex asks Donna how she could have possibly let their only daughter go out with a boy with a car like that. Hmm, it’s almost as if someone told her everything would be alright. Nonetheless, breakfast the next morning is an awkward scene. Mary is appalled that her father could embarrass her by worrying so much. Donna refuses to get in the middle. Jeff just wanted a bowl of cereal — with milk.
In the end, Donna reminds her family and viewers that worrying about your family is mostly a sign of affection. Sure, Alex put Mary’s love life with Scotty at risk, but there wasn’t much safety there to begin with. This episode reminds us that while worry may be an uncomfortable feeling, we don’t always have to ignore it. Sometimes worry is trying to tell us something. Sometimes worry shows that we care.
-Haley Sakuma was a 2021 Donna Reed Foundation intern from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).