What Buddy Said

Her name was Letitia. But the family affectionately called her “Tizzylish.”

Everyone knew her as Buddy.

The diary entry for Nov. 29, 1977, is a scant 41 words:

Tuesday. Not really a hell of an exciting day, good though, I had to stay after school for Drama Club and detention. I watched the T.V. show “Family” and Buddy’s decisions on “going with” someone made me happy. I love life.

Two questions. First, no recollection of what I did to deserve detention; could’ve been for mouthing off in class or handing in late assignments. I don’t recall.

Second, I’m curious what Buddy Lawrence decided that made me so happy.

A quick search online reveals the episode of the ABC series Family that was broadcast on Nov. 29 was titled “Labors of Love.” Since it’s in Season 3, it’s currently unavailable on DVD, but I just found it on YouTube.

I picked up the first and second season DVDs, and gleaned some insights in the process, ones that are timely to share now that we’re in the autumn of 1977 and late summer of 2012. It’s all relative, that’s for certain.

The Family Project wasn’t just a hive of readers, but communal TV watchers, too. As mentioned, Mom caught up with soaps like The Edge of Night and General Hospital, moreso when I was a baby and she hadn’t started working as an RN. Dad had some definite favorites: Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, and oddly enough … Kung Fu starring the late David Carradine.

But we all gathered around the Idiot Box to watch 60 Minutes, All in the Family, and any of the NBC Sunday Night Mystery series programs: Columbo, McMillan and Wife (I had the biggest crush on Susan Saint James), or Dad’s favorite, Hec Ramsey. It went hand-in-hand with his Western paperback obsession.

We laughed and talked as a family about issues that came up while watching Archie Bunker, or stories on 60 Minutes.

But the show Family was a little secret of mine, since I don’t recall watching it with the others. Which now leads me to an interesting possibility: being that Buddy Lawrence was almost my age (Kristy McNichol, born Sept. 11, 1962), I was apparently taking in some lessons from Buddy as her parents were similar to mine: Kate and Doug Lawrence, both born in 1927; my folks, 1932 and 1935.

How Buddy reacted to the world in 1977 was vastly different than how her parents experienced it at her age (14-15) in the early 1940s. Add to that Willie and Nancy, born in or prior to 1950, and Buddy is a standout.

She was me. I was looking to her for clues on how to be a teenager in the mid-to-late 1970s.

So, absent the episode I’d seen that late November evening in 1977, I was pleased to run across this moment in a maudlin two-part episode that aired in early March of the same year. Titled “Taking Chances,” it involves an accident which renders Family patriarch Doug Lawrence blind. Doug and Kate decide against a possibly fatal operation that would restore his eyesight, much to Buddy’s chagrin.

I was appalled at Buddy’s peevish behavior toward her parents, then realized I must’ve been the same way toward mine. I resented her resentment, until her rational, safety-loving parents call her on it and she states her case (italics mine). Kate, her mother, tells Buddy she’s not thinking rationally. Buddy replies:

“It’s not a thinking matter; it’s a feeling one. … I don’t think it’s really fair to expect me to feel the same way you and Nancy and Willie do, just because it’s the proper way to feel. … I know you’re all mad at me, but I’m mad, too. [And Dad] always told me to never settle for second best.”

It was a bolt out of the blue to hear Buddy say this.

And while the diary doesn’t admit as much, I feel certain that part of what made me so happy about Buddy’s decision back on that November day so long ago was her honesty and forthrightness—something that I desperately wanted for myself, but was having trouble saying to my own parents.

The risks Buddy’s parents were unwilling to take mirror my own. But Buddy knew how to speak truth to power. And like her, I somehow knew that being true to one’s self naturally involved risk.

That a 14-year old could teach something like that to a wayward 18-year old was nothing short of amazing.

~ by completelyinthedark on August 18, 2012.

5 Responses to “What Buddy Said”

  1. Well this certainly brought back memories. My family used to call me Buddy. I looked a little like her back then. It used to drive me crazy but secretly I thought it was cool. I found a blurb about that episode, Labors of Love, on tv.com. Here’s what it said, “Buddy, upset by a lack of attention from T.J., tries to make him jealous by hanging out with a geek; Willie catches the eye of his cute über-boss.” I wonder what her decision was that made you so happy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rigazio! Glad to see you here. When we met in Mpls, I could def see a little Buddy Lawrence in you. In a way, what Buddy decided is less the point than remembering the show made me happy–moreso because I felt I was getting tips on how to navigate being a teen in the 1970s. 🙂


    • Beth, I was able to watch the “Labors of Love” episode and now have an answer about what made me so happy. Just that past summer of 1977 I had a similar Buddy/TJ/Ernie moment where I was Ernie to another girlfriend’s Buddy. What made me happy is Buddy decides love is not an “either/or” situation but a “this/and” proposition. We don’t need to “use” or exclude people based on our affections. We become more expansive as humans when we invite others in, and in turn learn from them. This is what made, and still makes, me happy. Hope you’re well my friend!


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