Becoming Donna Reed


Sandee in 1950s Kitchen

Since moving to San Francisco I have found myself with an unusual amount of free time. I found a part time job, but the demands are so much less than my usual schedule of teaching full time. The first few weeks I was able to stay busy by unpacking and organizing, but now that is done.

I have long romanticized the idea of being a stay-at-home wife. I imagined my sparkling clean house, having time to prepare delicious meals each evening, and greeting my husband at the end of each workday relaxed and refreshed with a perfectly mixed cocktail to welcome him home. My model for this daydream has, of course, always been the incomparable Donna Reed in her role as Donna Stone on The Donna Reed Show. She is wise, diplomatic, and  handles each challenge with grace. She always looks fabulous.

Now that my daydream has become something of a reality I am finding that the fantasy is not quite as I had hoped. I feel out-of-sorts and not too sure about what to do with myself. When I began my teaching career I had a mentor who showed me the ropes, now that fabricating domestic bliss has become my primary objective I need a mentor to guide me on this new path. Thanks to Hulu, I have access to my mentor whenever I need her. The wisdom of The Donna Reed Show __is just a few clicks away.

Armed with a notepad and pen, my trusty MacBook, and the desire to be the best domestic goddess I can be, I will watch the show from the beginning and find the lesson in each episode and you, dear reader, will be have access to my discoveries. Consider this your Cliff’s Notes on household harmony, since it is quite possible that you may have a job that prevents you from engaging in this sort of deep cultural exploration. I am happy to share the fruits of my labor. Really, it’s the least I can do.

Now for a brief reality check. Though the wisdom of Donna still stands strong and true more than fifty years after it was first aired, times have changed. I am, in most aspects, a fully modern woman, so there are discrepancies between the fictional life of Donna Stone and my real life. First, I do not have a cozy house in the suburbs; I have an apartment overlooking Haight Street in San Francisco. Second, my husband is not a doctor, though he does keep long and unpredictable hours; he is a programmer. Third, Donna had two adorable children, a daughter and a son; I too have a boy and a girl though mine are four-legged and prone to meowing. Fourth, I have never cleaned the house in heels. Perhaps this should be one of my challenges. Donna is always perfectly coiffed and dressed as she goes about her tasks. Currently, I am sitting in my PJs writing this post; my hair is in a sleep flattened ponytail. I think I may need to step-up my game.

My goal is not to copy Donna’s every move, I am not making my life into a dusty time capsule. I want to take the wisdom of 1958 and apply it to 2010. I want to embrace timeless lessons from a timeless woman. Donna, I surrender myself to you. Teach me.