How sorry I am now that I let her understandable disbelief in my not-so-promising future influence me long past the "I'll show you!" stage. As I write this book in longhand on yellow lined paper that contains erasures, cross-outs, and indecipherable smudges, I look longingly at my assistant and dear friend, Terry Sims, typing away on his computer and I wish for a "doover" of that resentment.
Less than a year after I married Richard, I gave birth to a 9-pound, 31/2-ounce boy, whom we named Richard. We formed a family, and for the next five years I was working when I could land a role on a television show or a job as a chorus dancer. All the while, I put meals on the table, cooed and rocked, cleaned, and chatted with other moms in the park. I was cared for, and I was the best mom I knew how to be. When that marriage ended, I landed the role on The Dick Van Dyke Show; proudly I realized that I could take care of Richie and myself, at least economically. But emotionally I was not ready to take the helm and be the captain of the HMS Mary Tyler Moore. A few years later, in 1962, I married Grant.
Grant was unique in many ways, yet so recognizable to me as the protective alpha dog. Once again, a familiar and comforting mantle of safety draped itself around my shoulders, allowing me to express myself as an actress but making it necessary for me to take charge of little else.
It would be wrong for me to insinuate that I was forced into some kind of servitude. I did it to myself, inadvertently, as a diva in the making, perhaps? While I never felt the need to make anyone's life diva-difficult, I did feel it was appropriate for a man (father) to assume the role of decision maker, the one who took over when I was unable to, or disinterested in, taking the reins.
It felt right as an adult to have this captain's chair occupied by an intelligent, fiercely witty man, Grant, whose focus was to become the building of MTM Enterprises, Inc., including the care of its flagship, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And, come on, let's be fair to me: Wasn't my contribution that I was free to help create the earnest, lovable Mary Richards, who, after all, was a major asset in the business that was "show"?
I was a mother, too, requiring no small amount of self, which kept me very busy being loving, organized about time spent together, and just hanging out. While I had the best of intentions and high hopes, I did, I think, miss out on some of the perks of motherhood, such as spending time in the park on a random afternoon, or sitting on the living room floor together playing checkers. While Richie was young, I did two series, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And truth be told, work was my focus before, during, and after. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't have pursued a career while I had a little boy to care for. My heart breaks when I think of the times missed, times with him. How predictable that without awareness I emulated my mother's behavior toward me.
But before I figured all that out I sailed through the process of launching the show, astounded and delighted by the creativity that surrounded me.