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Saturday, October 16, 2010

in tribute

She was warm and bright and pretty.

She laughed at the trouble her boys got in.

She called them pet names.

She cooked beautiful roasts to proudly set before Dad to carve on Sunday afternoon.

She maintained a lovely home.

She was June.

The iconic American mother and wife and homemaker that my generation loves to alternately idealize and ridicule.


She was an actress. Born Barbara Lillian Combes, in 1915, later known as Barbara Billingsley.

She was a beautifully talented woman.

She was a mother to two boys. She had three husbands over the years.

I wonder how she felt about her most famous character. Did she feel pressure to wear pearls and be perfect? How did she feel as the concept of “woman” changed in the coming decades? Did she feel pressure to bow to that new vision of the successful woman? To recant her character?

I don’t think so.

Rumors have it that over the years she refused many times to appear as June in any kind of film that was making fun of the character.

She loved June.

And I think, if you had gone into her home, you would’ve found that she really was June too.

I watched the show regularly as a child, part of the rerun after school line up that was approved television for me and my sisters (including Brady Bunch and Partridge Family). I remember only a few scenes vividly. Bringing OJ in glass cups and a pitcher to the table on Saturday morning. How full and beautiful her skirts were, with such crisp aprons over them. And of course the hijinks of the boys, and Eddie (what a BAD BOY, I remember thinking.)

And yes I heartily agree with women living in and working in and transforming the public sphere. I hope to raise a daughter that does as much. I hope to attempt it myself for that matter.

And yet.

I too love June.

I love the idea of bringing my kids OJ in sparkling glasses. Cooking fluffy omelets and bacon to be gobbled down. I love the vision of laughing prankster teenagers and their friends running through my house.

I love making my home a bright and warm place for my family.

And this is thing, as I write and post and then reflect on this more.

It is more than fluffy omelets and orange juice in glass pitchers. Creating a happy bright home for you and your family - whoever that family is - is a world-changing thing. Giving my kids arms to run into day in and day out. Teaching them to love and cherish each other - share those cookies! and please DON'T HIT! - is a calling, is a mission, is a transforming of society. These little family units, those that June dedicated her (fictional) life to, are the foundation of our society, we teach trust and honor and justice in the little things we do all day and these traits are indeed what make a society great.

It is more than fluff and pearls.

It is essential stuff.

So, regardless of what my generation thinks, thank you Barbara for bringing that woman to life.

For teaching us so much.

Goodbye June.


  1. And who says that a woman working in her home isn't transforming the public sphere? Who says a woman who raises two boys who are respectful, resourceful, honest, and hardworking (like June did on TV) hasn't by her parenting and homemaking made the world a vastly better place.

    I feel like I have the most important job in the world raising my six worldchangers. The world is a better place for my homemaking--I whole-heartedly believe this.

    (Not to say that a woman cannot have another calling, ministry, business, etc. 'Cause actually, I believe in women in ministry, politics, etc. Just saying....)

  2. btw, I love June Cleaver. What an inspirational character. Thanks for writing a tribute so quickly!

  3. this is exactly what i was thinking as i was writing... gonna edit the post to try again.

  4. You made me cry. And I am so proud of you. As I told someone once, raising children is a career choice, a putting aside of other things for the short while it takes to raise your children, for they are so worth the investment.


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