Pinky Pie

Donna Belle Mullenger & Me

Posted on: December 18, 2009

Donna Reed (not my mother) and family from the first season of the show

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Donna Belle Mullenger. I just didn’t know it.

Or rather, I didn’t know that was the birth name for Donna Reed, who is best known this time of year as Jimmy Stewart’s wife in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Earlier in my life, I knew Donna Belle as the mother in The Donna Reed Show, which sounds a lot better than the Donna Belle Mullenger Show.

Donna Belle was married to a doctor so the show had some reflection on medicine in the 1960s.There was nothing very serious as I recall, certainly no breast cancer. But he was a pediatrician, not an oncologist.

What made the show a staple of 1960s television was that it centered on the family – two perfect children who got into mischief not real problems. It was the early 1960s, after all, and problems needed to be resolved in that 30-minute timeframe.

As 1960s television went, I was a bigger fan of Leave it to Beaver, although poor Jerry Mathers didn’t cute up with age. And what did his father do for a living? We never knew for sure other than going to the office.

As I’ve written before, if anything, I suffered from over love. My mom and dad would do anything for their children.

My mom, for example, cooked us breakfast each morning. Want eggs? How would you like them cooked? Bacon with that or sausage? (Yes, we had bacon.) Toast?

My mom was a morning person who loved to talk to her kids who increasingly were not chatty in the morning. We hid from her cheerfulness behind the St. Louis Globe Democrat, one of two papers that we received each day.

One day when I think I was in high school and Andy already gone to college, I slowly lifted my eyes to see Mom in a fancy dress, with earings, pearls and high heels.

“What’s going on?” was the obvious question.

“I thought if I dressed like Donna Reed, you’d pay attention to me,” she said with a smile.

It was hilarious, but I can’t remember if Mom achieved her goal in getting me to talk in the morning. And, I would have picked Leave it to Beaver’s Barbara Billingsly, but I didn’t cook much breakfast for my kids, let alone dress up for the occasion.

Mom had a wonderful sense of humor and was committed to laughing her way through life. After she moved to La Crosse from St. Louis, I knew we had a good visit when she said, “We did some good laughing today.”

What does this have to do with breast cancer? Not much. Except I love writing stories about my family. Maybe going in for chemotherapy today makes me a bit nostalgic.

But hey, it’s number 7 of 8. I’m getting there, thanks to my mom, Donna Belle.

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4 Responses to "Donna Belle Mullenger & Me"

Speaking of the Donna Reed Show, I met Paul Petersen about 20 years ago and got a picture with him. He was really nice. He is one of my FB friends!

Thinking of you Sue, one more to go!

Thank you, Lisa. One to go is right.

I just read what you wrote about Paul Peterson. How funny that he is a FB friend.

Yes, Paul doesn’t know me or remember me or anything that I know of, but he is very friendly on FB and posts often about what is going on in his life. I did email him about when we met, and he remembered appearing at the mall signing autographs. It was Oct 1989, and after I had my pic taken with him I went to a one hour photo place in the mall , got it developed and got back in line to have him sign the photo. He really got a kick out of that!

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