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A letter to an American icon | Roundabout
Dear Doris Day,
I have this wonderful fantasy that I get to meet you.
Actually, in my fantasy, my home state of Washington is on its best behavior, sunny blue skies and green trees vibrant and welcoming. My parents are visiting, my children are home, and there is a knock at the door. I answer it, and it’s you.
In my daydream, I introduce myself, and you introduce yourself (because you are so sweet and humble you at least pretend we don’t know who you are). Then I call my mom and daughter from the kitchen, because they are huge fans.
“This is my mom, Linda, and my daughter, Cassidy. This is Doris Day.”
And then my mom would cry, and Cassidy’s mouth would gape in a delighted smile. And I’d probably cry too, and Ms. Day, you would smile kindly, and watch us. Or maybe you’d make an exasperated, slightly cross-eyed look, I’m not sure.
We love your movies. Our favorites are “On Moonlight Bay” (1951), “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1953), “It Happened to Jane” (1959), and “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960). Big-hearted movies about the girl next door, the busy young housewife, the spunky young woman with a dazzling smile and a positive attitude.
These stories and characters mean a lot to us. I feel all happy and warm inside when they end. I know some people don’t like to feel warm and happy, but I love it. There are plenty of other movies out there that offer reality, something to think about, grit. I’ll take clean and uplifting any day. Whether your character was decorating an enormous, run-down house in the country, or hosting a Cub Scout pack meeting (serving lobster, of all things!), you portrayed life as fun and energetic. I choose to relate to your characters.
When my daughter spent three months sleeping under a table so she didn’t have to clean her room, I shrugged and laughed. I felt just like Kate McKay in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” when her son liked being in a cage.
When I’m having fun with my daughters at girls’ camp, I feel like I could be a character in one of your movies. You helped me view life as fun and adventurous, never dull or gloomy. Or at least, not for long.
Personally, your roles I’m fondest of are the sweet, girl-next-door movies, and the mom-with-kids movies. They’re engaging and wholesome and that’s the life that appeals to me. I’ve heard critics say they represent an Americana too virtuous, more perfect and small-town goodness than ever really existed. To that I answer, “Says who?” Sure, every town has its meanness, ugliness, and tragedy, but aren’t there also sweet moments when a nice boy falls in love with the girl next door? Or a curious boy does something like get his head stuck between chair rungs? Or the family’s pet lobster Larry continually gets mixed in with the girl lobsters? (I love that part).
If gritty movies are real, I say sweet ones are real too. Nothing wrong with a positive spin.
I hear you turned 88 in April, and you are going by Clara these days. May I call you Clara?
So, Ms. Day — Clara? — would you consider stopping by sometime for dinner? If you give me warning, I’ll try to have the house clean. I need a lot of warning, actually. You can meet our pets, as I’ve heard you are an animal lover. I do caution you, we also have kids. We promise not to ask you to sing, or entertain us. We won’t call you America’s Sweetheart, or even ask what it was like making all those wonderful movies. We just want to say hello, and thank you.
Let us know if you can come. Fall is a beautiful time in the Pacific Northwest, and you can even enjoy a ferry ride on the way. I hope you can make it. Either way, que sera, sera!
Your longtime devotee,
— Check out more from Denise Roundy at thetreesandi.blogspot.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.