At seven-fifteen in my Monday-morning, Me-TV, Leave It to Beaver universe, older brother Wally delivered sad news to Beaver from the other side of their closed bedroom door.
A mischievous neighborhood cat had killed Miss Canfield and Miss Landers, Beaver’s pigeons named after his favorite teachers. The crisis occurred during Wally’s watch as crestfallen Beaver quarantined with a case of chicken pox.
“Beaver’s Pigeons” (season 2, episode 20 of Leave It to Beaver) first aired on February 12, 1959, in an America long gone and mostly forgotten.
But it still exists as a comfortable escape for Tom and me–a lesson-laden gift from our past civilization that taught children right from wrong and nudged parents toward greater understanding through humor and humility.
Watching it over breakfast today momentarily softened the blow of 2022’s cataclysmic news tsunami: the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade that turns the clock back fifty years in human rights; the stunning evidence of corruption unearthed by the January 6th committee that dwarfs Watergate; and the devastation of the war in Ukraine that has shaken the world.
Then, as the episode unfolded, I felt the velvet hammer of realization clobber me. What was it about Beaver’s loss of two ordinary pigeons that moved me to tears over my yogurt and granola?
Certainly, it was the kind response of Beaver’s friends Larry and Whitey. They told Wally–and Ward and June, Beaver’s idyllic parents–they knew it would help Beaver deal with the loss of his pets if he could watch from his second-story window as they dug a hole and buried the pigeons in the side yard.
As Beaver glanced down to view the pet funeral, my tears also were prompted by this harsh reality that slaps me in the face daily: I live in a country that has lost its way, dismisses innocence as weakness, and embraces conspiracy theories over truths.
Too many in this nation fight more vehemently to protect their guns than their youngsters, reject books and diversity in favor of fear, and resist proven vaccinations that keep safe our most vulnerable citizens.
I know I’m not alone in my observations, anxieties, and worries. The majority would agree with my assessment. But as I approach my sixty-fifth birthday next week, I wonder if we will find a way to turn the tide for our children and grandchildren.
Like black-and-white Beaver in the late 50s–now more than ever as the losses mount–we need to give our youngest citizens the love, guidance, truth, and protection they deserve to cope in an often-upsetting world.