The great thing about the special was, it was darker, funnier and less heartwarming than the series became. Viewers really saw the widespread poverty of the Depression and the desperation that drove their daddy to work many long miles away in order to bring home food and presents for that large family.
The mother was played by Patricia Neal. She was harsh and loving, fearful and strong, less pretty, more rawboned and real than Michael Learned, who played the role in the series.
As these dark days of winter roll in and aftermath of the Great Recession refuses to go away, I find myself thinking about how my parents and grandparents endured poverty and hard, manual labor during the Great Depression, and how their lives did not change for the better until World War II brought factory work and higher-paying jobs. I think how hard they worked so my sisters, brother and I could go to college and have more comfortable lives.
Things may not have always worked out as they hoped. But I never had to hoe tobacco or eat biscuits and sawmill gravy for dinner because I couldn’t afford meat. “The Homecoming” is a gem in its own right, but I love it all the more because it takes the viewer inside a world my parents knew–a world I hope I will never have to know personally. Good night, John Boy!
Here’s a link to part of the special on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOlyKeEqEkg