“Here’s the story / Of a lovely lady ... ”
It’s surprising how often I think about Carol Brady. Never mind that she is a piece of fiction, a relic from the early 1970s sit-com world. The truth is I do think of her and how fortunate she was in that celluloid world of make-believe.
She is indelibly etched in my mind, not because, as a single mom (was she widowed? divorced? it was never really stated) of three daughters, she met and married Mike Brady, a successful architect. And not because her blended family worked so seamlessly well almost all of the time (how else would it work on television in the early 1970s?).
No, I think about Carol Brady – or if I am really being honest, envy Carol Brady – because she had Alice Nelson: part housekeeper, part cook, part childcare giver, and part friend. Oh, how I have fantasized over the years of having an Alice of my very own. It does not matter that we have neither the room for a live-in housekeeper nor the disposable income to afford one. Few do. Alice has, nevertheless, been a prominent feature in my fantasy world.
How wonderful it would be to have another adult to talk with while chopping carrots and making hamburger patties for the evening dinner. Someone who could lend a hand pulling those pesky weeds from the garden and someone to help me with the countless all-over-town practice runs: swim, soccer, guitar, basketball. How amazing it would be to have an extra pair of hands to assist with housework and with the grocery shopping. A helper who will wait for the cable guy, then dash to Shaw’s or Target for a few items, while I write a column, prepare for an after-school enrichment class, or finish up some meeting minutes.
Alice, sweet fictional Alice, you would have been my friend, my stand-in, my understudy – just like you were for Carol Brady! You would have smoothed the rough edges of my life with your quirky personality, big heart and tender care for my family and me.
What would I, in return, give to you? Well, my support and appreciation, for starters. And of course, a very generous paycheck every week! But there’s more I can offer Alice. I’d listen patiently to her woes about Sam the Butcher while we folded laundry together and sipped herbal tea. From time to time, I’d slip her extra cash so she could visit her sister in Tampa at Christmastime.
I can just imagine how the afternoons would unfold: we’d banter over whose turn it was to empty the dishwasher or take Tiger for a walk and then assign the task to the next kid who walked into the kitchen.
Well, there it is: a sneak peek into my more banal fantasy world. I actually don’t know anyone anywhere who employs an Alice like Mike and Carol Brady did. Oh sure, some people have nannies and house cleaners, but it’s not usually the same person – and help with dinner preparations and running errands is not often part of the deal.
As for me, I’ll deal with my endless tasks and muddle through, just like everyone else. There will be no Alice – except for the one I fashion in my dreams.
Carol and Alice. They have to be among the most enviable fictional duo ever created.
But it is just fiction, after all.
In real life, a person like Carol would probably be bored out of her mind, strung out on valium, and fighting an inappropriate crush on her step-son Greg. Meanwhile, a skulking Alice would be plotting to run off with Sam, move to Tampa as soon as she possibly could, and get the heck away from those demanding kids, the whiny wife, the plastic husband, and that scruffy dog.