- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

My children are really sad. A family they were very close to has moved away, and they are deeply mourning the loss.

I would be more empathetic after all, our family moved all too recently, and I know how hard it is to lose friends but thisfamily isn't real.

It's a television family. Corey Matthews, a k a the "Boy Meets World" boy, has had his last Mr. Feeney-solved crisis on prime time. After seven years of watching him and his friends progress from elementary school through college, it's been tough to say goodbye.

I tried to comfort my children by telling them quite truthfully that old shows never die, they just move into eternal reruns. They know this is true because my older daughter has delighted in "I Love Lucy" reruns since my baby sitter introduced Lucy to her when she was just a toddler. I wasn't aware of her daytime pastime until I spilled a big container of rice all over the kitchen floor one day.

"Lucy, you got a lot of 'splaining to do," she said while shaking her pudgy little finger at me.

But basking in the glow of the eternal half-life of syndicated sitcoms is not the same as vicariously sharing the lives of these television families as they're revealed in weekly snippets.

"This is a really big deal," my son assured me as the whole family counted off the days until the big televised farewell. "I've been watching this show for half of my life."

"That's nothing," my youngest daughter retorted. "I've been watching this show for my whole life."

I can top that, I thought: I've been living in a sitcom my entire life. I only wish I could edit my week down to its wittiest half-hour by deleting everything boring, messy or worthy of blooper outtakes.

When I was growing up, I believed my family was normal and all my friends had the misfortune of being born into deadly dull families in which nothing worthy of a good next-day story ever happened. I had weekly proof that my family fit the American norm with every situation comedy I watched.

There was the time my mother ran out of maple syrup and my father whisked the whole family into the car most of us still in pajamas vowing to get us really great maple syrup. He did. But we didn't know until we were six hours into our day that he was taking us to Vermont. Whittling that down to a half-hour episode minus hours of backseat whining and front-seat growls would be great television.

Or there was the time my mother went to the bank and ended up helping police capture a bank robber in an episode that included a dramatic shootout.

It was a Friday evening in the pre-ATM days, when missing a bank visit meant a weekend without cash. My mother was just going into the bank, thinking only that she had to get home in time to put Shabbat dinner on the table, when she saw a man run out of the bank with a bag spewing red dye. Having watched television herself, she knew what that meant, and when a police car pulled up a few minutes later, she ran up to give a description. In an understandable rush, the police pulled her into the car and went off on a chase.

When the police cornered the suspect, the two patrolmen ran out and began exchanging gunfire, giving my mother the obvious advice to lie low in the front seat. She complied, but when the police radio came on, she answered and gave the dispatcher a blow-by-blow description of the action.

"Who is this?" the dispatcher demanded.

"Why, this is Mrs. Gray," she declared, as if the answer was obvious.

She went on to solve a few more crimes, and her name became quite well known in police circles, ensuring if we truly were a television family her own spinoff series.

It wasn't until I left home and began exploring the world that I realized that though everyone lives interesting lives, my family's was the only one with a laugh track attached. That dubious honor has passed into the next generation. It's no wonder my children feel so attached to a television family.

My editor once wondered if somehow God knew I would be writing a column and therefore filled my life with "I Love Lucy" events. I don't know. But if I ever get a chance to ask, He will have a lot of 'splaining to do.

Paula Gray Hunker, who works from home, is the mother of four children, the bemused wife of her amazing (but true) husband and a staff writer for the Family Times. She welcomes comments, suggestions and stories from her readers. She can be reached by mail at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; by phone at 202/636-4897; by fax at 610/351-1791; or by e-mail (hunkerc@erols.com). Her column also can be found on The Washington Times Web site (www.washtimes.com).

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