Monday, October 18, 2010

She was more than just June Cleaver

Barbara Billingsley has passed away at ninety-four. When you hear her named mentioned, you probably think of a beautiful, blond wife and mother, caressing her household with a satin touch.

She was June Cleaver.

June never descended the Cleaver staircase without first donning her legendary pearl necklace. Ms. Billingsley later recounted that she wore the famous accessory to hide a slight indentation in her throat, and just like that, an immortal image was created, worthy of a place in television lore next to Archie Bunker's chair and Arthur Fonzarelli's leather jacket.

Ward Cleaver, the patriarch of the Cleaver clan, would have been lost at sea without his able bride. As I wrote about in this post, Ward's only real tasks in life were grabbing his lunch out of June's manicured fingers as he departed for an unspoken, yet stressful job down at "the old salt mine," and returning to a five course dinner with his brood of hapless, yet lovable sons, Wally and Beaver.

"Sit down, dear. Here's the evening paper, and dinner will be served in fifteen minutes." June had everything under control. Ward's only remaining duty would be to discipline Wally for giving Lumpy a retaliatory wedgie that went awry, or scolding The Beav for using June's brassiere to raise some new tadpoles.

She'll forever occupy a squeaky clean world in shades of black, white and gray, but mostly white. I'll always think of her when I pour a glass of whole milk or see a woman gardening in her slacks. And, a lot like my own mom, she was there when her kids needed her the most, saying just the right thing.

But as indelible a mark as she's made on our lives as June Cleaver,  how many of us remember her performance in this scene from Airplane:

Versatile? yes. Classy and elegant? Definitely. Irreverent and hilarious? Absolutely, which makes me love her even more.

Rest in peace, Barbara Billingsley.

1 comment :

  1. Wonderful Job Timmy! You deserve a big glass of chilled milk and a plate of chocolate chip cookies! P.S. My ex-husband referred to me as "June Cleaver" - I took it as a complement and still do to this day. Thank you for this tribute.