RIP, Ann B. Davis: What Alice on 'The Brady Bunch' Taught Me About Parenting
Though I had grown up watching The Brady Bunch like millions of others, thanks to the magical gift of syndication, the sad news didn't conjure up childhood memories. Instead, my mind immediately brought me back to 3:30 A.M. on any given night between March and December 2005. That was when my first-born would awaken for her middle-of-the-night feeding, and I often passed the time catching up on some golden oldie boob tube. It just so happened that my daughter's sleep schedule coincided with the airing of The Brady Bunch on Nick at Nite, and I would be lying if I didn't say I came to actually look forward to my nocturnal trips back to the early 1970s. In fact, I usually got annoyed if she happened to wake up a little later than usual, and I had to watch Hunter instead.
See, the problem with Hunter was that it was an hour-long show, and my daughter was usually full and sleeping like an angel before I had any hope of seeing Rick Hunter and Dee Dee McCall solve the case. Try falling back asleep when you are plagued with the unknown answer of who murdered the motorcycle cop with the same kind of armor-piercing bullet that killed McCall's husband. Or who kidnapped the girl who claimed her carrier pigeons had been stolen. I'll tell you what...that's a recipe for an Ambien addiction if I've ever heard of one. And if I did see Hunter and McCall take out the perp, that probably meant my little darling was still awake after her bottle had no intentions of going back to sleep, which meant neither did I. So either way, it was a lose-lose situation.
But The Brady Bunch, THAT was the perfect night-time feeding entertainment. Thirty minutes. Plot lines you didn't need to be fully alert to follow. The calming glow of Cindy's Technicolor blue eyes. Thanks to The Brady Bunch, I don't look back on those months of disrupted sleep with disdain. There was something restorative and centering about sitting in the dark, my baby nuzzled up to me, and the house completely quite except for the perfectly timed laugh track and Peter's cracking pubescent voice.
Maybe it was because in those wee small hours of my new motherhood, of starting my own Bunch, I was learning to become an Alice.
I recently got sucked into one of those online quizzes to find out which TV mother I was most like.* As would be expected, Carol Brady was one of the possible outcomes. I am pretty sure the only thing I have ever had in common with Carol Brady is that we both thought Barry Williams was hot at one time. In fact, I don't think Carol Brady really represents any real life mom I have ever known. But Alice? I have a feeling millions of kids have been raised by Alices, including the Brady kids themselves.
Let's break this down...
Carol Brady: Always wears the latest fashion, goes out shopping, does needlepoint, volunteers for the occasional charity work, wears negligees to bed...okay guys, seriously...anything else? I literally counted all of that on one hand.
Alice: Cooks, cleans, does laundry, keeps the schedule, helps with homework, counsels the kids, makes lunches and baked goods and costumes for school, wears the same damn thing every day, goes to the grocery store, looks ridiculous when she tries to be cool, is still on the job even on vacation, puts up with the kids' crap, sometimes gets a thank you, hasn't had a real date with her significant other since the kids came along, laughs because otherwise she will cry, wears a grandma robe to bed because sleep time is not sexy time, and the only way anyone comes to realize all the sh*t she does for the family is when she makes up an excuse that she has to leave to take care of a sick aunt because not one of those bell-bottomed buttheads has enough sense to tell her that she is needed and appreciated...but she would still give her life for any one of them.
I think there was a reason Alice's mug held the center square.
Alice's role may have been intended to be the comic foil to America's perfect family. But the only reason they were able to be perfect was because Alice tidied up all the imperfections for them in a way so unassuming no one even knew it was happening. Even when she herself felt like she was fumbling through life, she managed to get the Bradys to the happy resolution by the end of the episode...every.single.time.
Alice the housekeeper was the perfectly real mother after all. And real mothering is a tiring job...especially when you have to do it in reunion shows...and in syndicated reruns...and during cable network holiday weekend marathons... and at 3:30 A.M. on any given night between March and December 2005.
Rest well, Alice. And Ann.
*(In case you were wondering, I got Clair Huxtable on the "Which TV Mother Are You?" quiz. Boom. That's the gold medal of mothering right there. Feel free to bow to me now. It's just a stupid unreliable quiz that probably gives everyone the same answer, you say? Well, I happen to know this one is accurate and a completely reliable assessment of mothering skills. Because what other outcome could there have possibly been considering the enormous amount of Jell-O Pudding Pops I consumed as a child, often at the SAME TIME I was watching The Cosby Show. I call that not probable cause, but definite cause.)
Originally published on www.areyoufinishedyet.com.