Episode 15: The Awakening


(3 January 1974) 39/2/15

Writer: Joanna Lee.

Director: Lee Philips.

Music: Arthur Morton.


The Awakening


"Many times when I have tripped across those events in one's life called milestones, I have thought about how they so often catch us unawares. There was, for instance, that unforgettable Spring many years ago when in the same week Grandma had to face growing old, Mary Ellen had to face the feelings of a woman".


Grandma and Olivia are preparing stew for supper when Grandma misunderstands Ben and Jason. Grandpa sets the boys aside to tell them that Grandma is having trouble hearing. Outside, John-Boy asks his father if he can fix-up the shed as his office, and John agrees. After dinner, the family listens to FDR talk about his new social security program, while Ben and Jason play Chinese checkers. Grandma becomes upset at the speech, not liking to be officially called “old” with respect to the president’s old-age pension starting at age 65. Mary Ellen’s tries to loudly explain the law of supply and demand with respect to crops, but by this time Grandma won’t listen to anyone.


In bed, Olivia says to John that she is worried about Grandma, while Zeb tells Esther that he feels she has lately been in a mean temper. Grandma looks at herself in the mirror and wonders where did it all go. She says she looks so different, but “no wrinkles are in my mind or spirit”.


Mary Ellen walks out of Ike’s store and strolls to the edge of Druscilla’s Pond. As she wades in the water a young man with a fishing pole walks up. He introduces himself as Kevin Sturgis, a medical student at the University of Virginia. Kevin tells Mary Ellen that she is beautiful, wanting to paint her (and wishing his father understood why he would like to be a painter). Kevin says he is twenty years old, and thinks Mary Ellen is sixteen or seventeen. After kissing her, Kevin apologizes for being such a gorilla. He promises to return tomorrow to see her, and Mary Ellen directs him to their house: the first one on the left, up the road.


Grandpa asks for Olivia’s help to convince Esther to go to the doctor, saying she hasn’t seen a doctor in ten years. Olivia suggests he not call her “old woman”. The children kid Mary Ellen about the handkerchief she was given by Kevin. Olivia privately talks with the upset Mary Ellen, who admits that he kissed her and said she was beautiful. Olivia smiles, and Mary Ellen asks what it feels like to be in love? Olivia tells her daughter what it means to be a woman, saying, “It is a beginning of new possibilities – love, marriage, children – when the time is right and if that’s what you want. But in any case it’s a natural cycle, and it’s filled with joys, sorrows, and responsibilities.”


Olivia tells John about Mary Ellen’s pains of romance, and John kids his wife about talking like a suffragette. School lets out and G.W. walks up to Mary Ellen, asking if he can carry her books. But he doesn’t understand why she’s acting the way she is acting. John-Boy cleans out the shed, and brings in some of his possessions. Mary Ellen asks Grandpa if anyone stopped by, but he says no. Ben, Erin, Jim Bob, and Elizabeth talk about buying an ear-trumpet off of Vern Rutley’s cart for Grandma’s birthday in order to help her hear better. Mary Ellen absently agrees it’s the correct gift. Erin wants to meet Mary Ellen’s boyfriend after reading her diary, but Mary Ellen doesn’t like the idea of her reading her private thoughts.


Olivia talks with Grandma about how she feels, while Mary Ellen later tells her mother that she needs privacy. John-Boy overhears Grandma talking harshly to Mary Ellen, while Olivia tells Grandma that she will discipline her own daughter. Mary Ellen asks to move into the shed, and Olivia agrees. But later when John-Boy finds Mary Ellen putting up curtains, he becomes angry, not understanding why he has to be patient when it comes to the children. Just then Grandpa watches as Grandma faints, falling down the back steps. He yells for help.


Later, Grandpa talks to John-Boy about the first time he went to Drucilla’s Pond with a long, brown-haired girl by the name of Cissy. He relates how she was full of dreams (like Mary Ellen), not like the other 18-year-old girls. She wanted to start her own Richmond dress shop because she was good at sewing. Grandpa says he feels sorry for her because none of her dreams ever amounted to much. John-Boy asks whatever happened to her, and Grandpa says, “I married her.”


On Friday, John-Boy asks Ike for a present for Grandma that’s under fifty cents. Ike recommends a pure China figurine that he sells for thirty-five cents. When John-Boy sees a bouquet of yellow roses that Ike grew, he wonders if he would sell it for fifteen cents. Ike laughs, saying he’d never sell it, but in the end John-Boy walks out with the bouquet. At home, Mary Ellen takes supper to Grandma, after being told to stay in bed by Dr. Vance. But Grandma is agitated at the thought of being bed-ridden, telling Mary Ellen she cleared the land for their house, and bore three children. Grandma tells Mary Ellen that a boy stopped by, but told him that she was at school with the other children. Mary Ellen is upset by what her grandmother said.


John-Boy realizes why Mary Ellen is upset, and decides to give her the roses because; “sometimes a man has to give flowers to a woman, even when she’s his sister.”


On Saturday, John and John-Boy load lumber onto the truck. Zeb prepares to take Esther to Charlottesville to see another doctor, but promises to have her back for her birthday party. G.W. visits Mary Ellen, and becomes jealous when he sees her roses. Mary Ellen doesn’t tell G.W. who gave her the flowers, but observes that he’s jealous.


Later, Mary Ellen and Elizabeth bake the cake while Jason and John-Boy make the card and Elizabeth eats the icing. John-Boy writes on the card:


“To our dear Grandmother,

May your joys be as keep as the ocean,

and your troubles as light as the clouds.

From Elizabeth, Ben, Jim Bob, and Mary Ellen.”


Erin is making Grandma a muffler, but when John sees it, he thinks it is a knitted dishtowel. Olivia lights the cake’s candles as Grandpa and Grandma return. The doctor finds that Grandma only had a viral ear infection. Mary Ellen realizes that their present is now inappropriate. Grandpa gives Grandma a gold plated sewing thimble, and calls her “Cissy”. Then the kids give Grandma the roses, while Jason gives her a carved chicken. When Grandma receives Erin’s gift, she thinks it is a pillowcase.


John-Boy tried to write in his journal as Mary Ellen sits in the shed by herself as the children play outside. Mary Ellen tells John-Boy that she was too lonely in the shed, so returns it to him. G.W. brings flowers to Mary Ellen at the shed, but is greeted by John-Boy instead, who gratefully accepts the flowers.


"Mary Ellen's new found maturity was with her one day then gone the next; in time it was to come to stay. Today she lives in Richmond, Virginia, the wife of a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and the mother of two sons. We see each other when we can, and our talk is apt to return to those days during the Depression which these many years later still seem filled with wonder".


Ben: John-Boy?

John-Boy: Yes, Ben?

Ben: Does the world go round the sun or does the sun go round the world?

John-Boy: I believe the Earth circles the sun, Ben.

Erin: I wish you would stop talking about things that go around, you're keeping me awake.

Mary Ellen: I can't sleep either, just laying here tossing and turning.

Jim Bob: Let's all go downstairs and have some cocoa.

Elizabeth: That's a good idea, Jim Bob!

Jason: Can we, Mama?

Olivia: Would I be crazy if I said "Yes"?

John: You would, but go ahead anyway!

Olivia: Allright, but don't dirty my kitchen!

Everyone cheers.

John: You know, cocoa's not a bad idea. Want some?

Olivia: Why not.



Charlie Sneed tells Grandpa that the president is supposed to talk tonight over the radio.

The United States government announces that people 65 years old and older are eligible for old age pensions.

Grandma will be 68 years old next Saturday. Her nickname during her teenage years was Cissy. We are told that Grandma will be 68 years old on Saturday. According to web site http://www.ssa.gov/history/history6.html FDR signed the Social Security Act into law on Wednesday, August 14, 1935. Assuming this is the day he made the radio announcement to the country, then according to web site http://www.greenheart.com/billh/ Grandma’s 68th birthday would be Saturday, August 17,1935. (This date is not confirmed, only a possibility.)

Mary Ellen is fourteen years old.

Sue Carlson, one of Mary Ellen’s friends, acts silly around boys.

Grandma says she bore three children.

As later episodes show, but not as stated in the closing of this episode, Mary Ellen marries a doctor (Curtis Willard), and later a vet (Jonesy).


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), G.W. Haines (David Doremus), Dr. Vance (Victor Izay), Kevin Sturges (James Carroll Jordan).


(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)