The Detective’s Daughter — Wanting to be Moore

kimspolicehatKim in Baltimore enjoying the warm weather. Wait…it’s still February, right?

I was ten years old and had my future mapped out fairly well for a fifth grader. I knew I wanted to move to Minneapolis on my eighteenth birthday and live in a second floor apartment in an old Victorian house on a snow-covered side street. Pop-Pop gave me a glass jar so I could begin saving for my dream. I tried to convince my best friend at the time, Denise Hampton, to go with me. She could live upstairs from me and wear a long vest and a scarf on her head. She did move, but without me and before we had even made it to middle school.

I had every detail set up perfectly in my mind. A magazine or television station would hire me and I’d have a gruff but kind-hearted boss who would guide my career. I knew this could happen, I had watched this life unfold every Saturday evening.

“You know, Mary Tyler Moore doesn’t really live in Minneapolis, don’t you?” Mom asked one morning as she filled my bowl with Cap’n Crunch cereal.

“Of course I do,” I said, hoping that in real life she lived with Dick Van Dyke in New Rochelle.

kim-auntsEvery weekday afternoon I would walk a half block from Saint Mary Star of the Sea School to my Aunt Madeleine’s house for lunch. Aunt Madeleine lived with her daughter whom the family called “Little Madeleine” despite the fact she stood nearly six-feet tall, a good foot over her mother. I was in high school before I realized that the title “little” referred to her age not her size.

Auntie would fix me what she called a “tuna plate” which consisted of a scoop of tuna salad on an ice burg lettuce leaf, carrot sticks, potato chips, and a dill pickle spear.

We sat at the counter in the kitchen watching reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show on a black and white portable television. It was there I first fell in love with Mary Tyler Moore.

However much I adored Laura Petrie and her perfect hair and fabulous wardrobe, it was Mary Richards I aspired to be. I did not want a house in the suburbs, I wanted to be a writer. It was a career woman’s life I intended to emulate.

For ten years I was that woman, I even had an apartment in an old Victorian, but it was in a dodgy side of town rather than on a picturesque snowy road. My life seemed to reflect Bridget Jones more than Mary Richards!

Through the years as I changed from career woman to suburban mom, I followed Miss Moore’s  career and shared her movies and shows with my own children. I began to admire her more for her personal achievements than for her television accomplishments, especially her work in searching for a cure for diabetes.

This past November at Crime Bake as we celebrated the fabulous William Kent Krueger at dinner, all the attendants were given a task to write a little something that would include bits about Minnesota where Krueger’s series take place. I sat at a table with the Wicked Cozy Authors and together we created quite a lively and funny piece. Julie Hennrikus represented our table and read our creation to the audience. Sherry Harris threw a cap in the air at the final sentence mimicking the MTM show opening. Our table won for being the most creative.

kimmtmIn January I was crushed when I learned of Miss Moore’s death. I remembered being a young child and seeing Nana crying at the kitchen table. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “Our Judy died.” At the time, I didn’t understand her affection for Judy Garland, but now I’m sure I feel quite the same as she did on that day. Someone beloved had been lost to us.

Our idols, people we admire, shape our dreams and our goals. I’ve been across this country four times and have yet to visit Minneapolis. I’m determined not to let another year go by without making the trip. Mary Tyler Moore, her spunk and determination, gave me courage to reach for my dreams and to constantly remind myself that I’m going to make it after all.

Readers: What famous individual has had an influence on your life?

25 Thoughts

  1. What a lovely tribute. I seem to have missed the Mary Tyler Moore thing entirely, maybe because by the time I was in college (you’re a spring chicken, Kim, you know…), I’d already begun my lifelong habit of not watching television. But I hear the rest of you who adored and admired her. In my college years I read Simone de Beauvoir and Anais Nin, probably every piece either of them ever wrote. Their words moved and inspired me to follow my dreams, to be passionate in all things, and not to waver. I can say they truly changed my life.

  2. Whenever I played make-believe as a young girl, I wanted to grow up to be a private secretary, and I would be named Leslie or Sandy. Later, my fantasy life name was Leslie Sandy and I lived in a house by the sea, but every morning I drove to the city to my job as a private secretary. Where I got the idea that being a private secretary–most certainly to a man!!!– was glamorous is anyone’s guess, but Leslie Sandy did have a string of nice boyfriends and, unlike Mary Richards, she threw great parties.

    When I was young, I was obsessed with Anne Frank. I still read her diary every few years. As an adult, I read the journals of May Sarton, whose quiet life as a writer still moves me.

    Thank you for this post, Kim.

  3. I was in the 7th grade at Pickering Grammar School in Salem when I read two books–back to back–that shaped my future. They were “Natalie Enters Advertising” and “A Star for Gunny.” Both girls had jobs in the ad business–Nataiie was a writer, Ginny an artist for the ads in a large department store. I knew right away I wanted a career in advertising. (i turned out to be a better writer than I was an artist, so went with that.) Got to be pretty good at it and did indeed work for many years as ad manager for a large N.E. department store. After “retiring” I wanted to write for kids, so bought “Writing Juvenile Stories and Novels” by Phyllis Whitney. I already loved her mysteries so figured she’d give good advice. Imagine my surprise when in that book I read the words. . .”In my second novel, A Star for Ginny. . . .” So there it is. Phyllis Whitney, favorite cozy writer turns out to be my original inspiration. I wrote half a dozen middle grade novels and moved on to cozies. She died a few years ago at 104 and continued to publish until she was 94! So she’s still my inspiration!

    1. Carol, that is a terrific story! I, too, love Phyllis Whitney. The first “grownup” mystery I read was Emerald by Miss Whitney. It is still one of my favorites and I believe one of her best. (My mom and I argue that point, though.)

  4. What a wonderful tribute.

    I haven’t seen much of the Dick Van Dyke Show. I need to fix that because I’ve loved what I’ve seen. But I am a huge fan of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. It was one of 5 shows I was going to allow myself to buy on DVD. I long gave up on that and started buying many shows I love on the format, but this remains one of my all time favorite TV shows. Such great characters and a great cast.

    1. Thanks, Mark. I agree with you that the MTM show had one of the best casting on television. They were such memorable characters that just the mention of a name brings a scene instantly to my mind. And you must definitely catch up on the Dick Van Dyke Show. They have that one on Netflix.

  5. Dear Sherry,

    This is a thoughtful tribute to a lovely, important lady. It’s funny how we often take pioneers for granted at the time they are breaking new ground. Her portrayal of a single woman who achieved success through hard work and determination (not to mention humor) has, as you noted, helped you and others believe they could make it. Rest in peace, Mary.

    Thank you, Sherry,
    Gail Balentine

    1. I have to give the credit to Kim Gray for writing this! I posted it for her because she was having some technical difficulties. You are so right about what she did and how it was easy not to see it in the moment!

  6. I was greatly saddened by the death of Mary Tyler Moore but even more so last December by the passing of Debbie Reynolds. I had grown up on “Tammy and the Bachelor” and “Singing in the Rain” (yes, I’m of that generation) and thought she was everything I could ever hope to be.

    1. I have to tell you, I loved Debbie, too. The first movie I remember seeing her in was The Unsinkable Molly Brown. My mom would let me set my alarm to get up in the middle of the night to watch Robert Mitchum movies. I was only allowed to see the one movie then back to bed. One morning Mom found me asleep on the floor with the television still playing. Tammy and the Doctor had played right after Not As A Stranger (it must have been Doctor themed movies that night!) and I stayed up to see that one as well. Boy, was I tired at school that day!

  7. I, too, loved Mary Tyler Moore, both on Dick Van Dyke and the Mary Tyler Moore show. She didn’t affect my life, somehow I knew my single life wouldn’t be like hers, but I think she was a great comedian. Hilarious, understated, vulnerable and strong all at once. A marvel.

  8. Aww Kim, this is awesome. What a heartfelt tribute! And you captured that desire we all have to emulate someone who’s doing great things in the world. Thanks for this.

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