I almost didn’t write this. But it’s very important. Because as an American, you deserve to know that today in the supermarket, I ran into an elderly woman who looked just like Angela Lansbury.
She was a dead ringer.
Of course she claimed she wasn’t Angela Lansbury. She even went so far as to say her name was Jeanne, from Michigan.
But I didn’t believe her. I watched her ring up groceries. She kept looking at me from the corner of her eye as though she were thinking about reaching for pepper spray.
Then she left.
I watched “Jeanne”—if that’s truly her name—exit the double doors and wander into the parking lot.
I asked the teenage cashier, “Did you SEE that lady?”
“Yeah,” the cashier said.
“Did you notice anything about her?”
“SHE LOOKED JUST LIKE ANGELA LANSBURY!”
“‘MURDER SHE WROTE!’”
“WAIT! WHY ARE WE SPEAKING IN ALL CAPS?”
I’m going to level with you. I cried. Yes, dang it, I cried. Right in the supermarket. Not a big cry, mind you. Just a little one.
Until then, I hadn’t cried for a long time. The last time was a few weeks ago when my wife kicked me during sleep.
My wife loses control during REM sleep. Which wouldn’t be a big deal if she would have kicked me in the shin—she has kicked my shins plenty of times. But she did not kick me there. I will let you figure out where she kicked me.
Take your time.
Let’s just say that on the following Sunday at church, the choir director had me sing first soprano.
But getting back to my celebrity sighting. When I saw this woman in the checkout line, my entire childhood came flooding back to me.
I have a soft spot for “Murder She Wrote.” When I was a kid, it came on our local channel every night at five. Followed by “Mama’s Family.” Which I also loved.
I realize that most men reading this column have already quit reading and gone off to do something masculine, like slaughter a grizzly bear, or smoke a cigar, or shave their legs with a Bowie knife. But I am not apologizing for the way I feel about “Murder She Wrote.”
The truth is, I enjoy lots of girly TV shows because I was raised by women. When I was a child, my mother and my grandmother used to watch “The Facts of Life” together. Religiously.
We would all sit in front of a console television. My grandmother would laugh and cough up a cloud of Winston cigarette smoke. These are good memories.
When I was a little older, after my father died, my mother, sister, and I had just moved into a new rental house. We were lost in this world. Our house was littered with boxes, our furniture was still wrapped in plastic. Nobody knew what was going to happen to us.
So my mother hooked up our television set.
One of the channels was running a “The Facts of Life” marathon. That night, we didn’t unpack boxes. We ordered pizza and watched every single episode, sitting on the carpet. My mother and I stayed awake all night with Blair, Natalie, Jo, and Tootie.
I am also a big “I Love Lucy” fan. When I got my first pickup truck, I named it “Lucille” because Lucille Ball raised me.
Shows like “Columbo” were my mother’s favorites. I have childhood visions of my mother watching “Columbo” while folding laundry. She’d say, “God, I just love Peter Falk.”
And then there was “Murder She Wrote.”
I consider the hours spent watching this show to be golden. I have seen every mystery five times. Maybe more. And if God, in all his omniscience, should ever look upon me and allow me to meet the ninety-three-year-old Angela Lansbury, I will need a loaner pair of trousers after the meeting.
These TV shows mean more to me than they probably should. I was a sad kid. And quiet. At times, I felt like my best friends were those on the television screen.
I practically lived in a world of “The Andy Griffith Show,” “I Love Lucy,” “Gunsmoke,” “Big Valley,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Bonanza,” “The Rockford Files,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and “Murder She Wrote.”
And when I see these old episodes, I am taken back to a time of fuzzy TV reception, and antennas wrapped in foil. Before modern television turned into whatever it is you call it today.
I still remember when a lonely family in a new house ate pizza together and laughed with the TV. Even though the odds were against them. And I remember the lonely kid I used to be, surrounded by mother hens, who still loves to see Angela Lansbury save the day.
So that’s why I chased a strange elderly woman through the supermarket parking lot. That’s why I was out of breath when I caught up to her. And that’s why I handed her a piece of paper and asked her to sign it.
She laughed and said, “Seriously? Why would you want me to sign this? I told you, I’m nobody famous.”
“Because, ma’am,” I said. “Every column needs a good ending.”
And this one is a lot better than an ending involving pepper spray.