Like The Waltons

6 02 2012

Do you remember The Walton’s?    It was on from 1971-1981 and the reruns played forever. It was about this large family that lived in the Virginia Mountains during  The Depression.  Grandma, Grandpa, Ma & Pa and their 6 children all lived under 1 roof, struggling to survive. It was narrated by the oldest son John Boy who became a writer. At the close of every show they would all say goodnight to each other. “Good night John Boy.” “Good night LIzbeth.”

Imagine a family like the Waltons only instead of living in the Virginia Mountains, they live in the North Woods during the current Recession. They are The Walnuts.  Grandma, Grandpa and Pa died years ago. John Boy (we’ll call him Macademia Walnut) smoked too many cigarettes and never published any  best sellers. He died too. Imagine Mary Beth never left home because she developed a gambling habit and lost her house to creditors. We’ll call her Almond.  And Elizabeth  became an alcoholic and doesn’t come around very much anymore. Her name is Pistachio.  Jim Bob never left home either—we’ll name him Chestnut. He has a polysubstance abuse problem and can’t keep his dick in his pants.  His 2 illegitimate  daughters live there too,  PineNut & BrazilNut.  They are practically adults themselves, but they are more interested in growing  weed  in Grandma’s backwoods. Olivia would be  Grandma Haze..  As for the other children Erin, Jason, and Ben…well Pa Walton had been busy with his other wife and family in a different state. That’s when he was out “getting work.”   And imagine the Walnut family instead of being human; they are a large family of squirrels.

Grandma Hazel  was an aging matriarch. She did the best that she could with what she had. Even when Pa Walnut had been alive, he was very rarely home.   He would send postcards from Idaho and Oregon. Sometimes he would send a little money, but it wasn’t enough.  Not only did Hazel have to raise the children on her own, she had to work to provide for her family.  Just when Hazel was used to the idea that Mr. Walnut might not being coming home, he’d show up with his army duffle slung over one shoulder and a crooked smile on his face. And she’d always give in.  She was 40-something when she became pregnant the last time. When she found out, Hazel sat at the kitchen table and cried.  The last child was Chestnut Walnut.

Now Chestnut is 40-something. And Hazel is a frail old squirrel with an enlarged heart, missing fur patches and arthritic joints. She can’t make it up and down the tree on her own anymore. Back in the day, she kept an immaculate nest, but with so many squirrels in the nest these days, it might make it on an episode of Hoarders. They all live off her Squirrel Security Check.  She visits the Food Pantries and clips coupons.  Hazel is not able to collect nuts anymore. And the  rest of the family is too lazy and won’t.

It was two weeks before Christmas. Grandma Hazel hadn’t finished her Christmas shopping. She always bought each of them a little something.  The National Oak Tree Bank called.  Her account had been emptied.  She didn’t have a nut left.

Chestnut had done it before. Taken the checkbook out of his mother’s purse, wrote himself a check and cashed it. Then off to his dealer.


Chestnut sat at the kitchen table. His eyes were half closed and glassy.  He wore a half smile.

Almond waved Grandma’s checkbook in his face. “Chestnut! Did you do this?”

He shrugged a little. “You know I did. It’s not like you don’t help yourself when you lose at the Casino.”

Almond hit him hard. “You rat bastard! Your own mother!”

He lit a cigarette and blew  it in her face. He exited the kitchen up the stairs to his room.  Almond couldn’t do anything. She was 20 years older than he was and in poor health herself.

“I’ll turn him in after Christmas,” Hazel said.

Christmas came meager as it was–and went.  Hazel did not report her son. But she was old and tired. She  hoped that she just wouldn’t wake up one day.

A few weeks into the New Year, Hazel received another phone call from the bank.  Her entire stash of nuts had been depleted and over drafted by 500 nuts. The bank informed her that she would be charged 75 nuts a day until her account was brought back to zero.

Hazel cried at the kitchen table. No one had 500 nuts.

“Chestnut!” Almond screamed.

“What?” He was sitting in front of the TV smoking a joint.

“You need to turn yourself in,” Almond whined.

“I will after the weekend. I want to spend some time with the kids.”

But that was a lie. The kids were another lame excuse. He could give two pits about his kids. He would sell them for drugs if he could. The light bill  and nest insurance were  due, but all 500 plus nuts had been  shot  into Chestnut’s veins.

“Call Little Acorn,” Hazel said. “Ask to borrow the money.”

Little Acorn was Hazel’s grandson who lived in the city He was  Macademia’s son.

“Again?” Little Acorn raised his voice.

He loved his Grandma, but he knew if he gave her the money, the same thing would happen again. And there was no way that she could possibly pay back that amount of money. She was on a fixed income.

“Well, do you have it?” Almond asked.

“No, I don’t.” That was a lot of money. He had to pay his bills too.

“What about that rich girlfriend of yours? Ask her will you?”

“Yeah, I’ll ask.”  Little Acorn covered the phone with his hand and looked at his girlfriend, Sunflower. “Uncle Chestnut did it again. They need 500 nuts.”

“What? No. Absolutely not. Had they turned him in before Christmas, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Why should I pay for someone else’s drug habit.” She stormed away.

“She doesn’t have it either.” Little Acorn said.

“Doesn’t have it? Or doesn’t want to?” Almond asked.

“She doesn’t have it. Nor is she obligated to. She’s not family. I’ve got to go.” He ended the call. Little Acorn chewed his paw in thought. “It’s Grandma, ya know.”

“Yeah I know,” Sunflower said.  “But by giving them money, you’re enabling the situation to continue.”

“True, but—“

“But nothing. Remember watching that show Squirrel Intervention.  We would always say how stupid they were when the one family member would cave and let the drug using son back into the house or give him money.”


“Same thing.” she said. “But I might make a donation  if they report Chestnut and they change bank accounts. I’d need proof, though.”

Little Acorn called his brother Pecan who lived near their Grandma.  Pecan was willing to open a new account with grandma. Little Acorn called Grandma Hazel back. It was difficult having a phone conversation with grandma. Had to practically yell and she still couldn’t hear. But Almond wouldn’t hand the phone over anyway.

“We will give you half the money if you report Chestnut. And—“ Little Acorn started.

“He’ll go to prison!” Almond whined.

“Um. . .that’s where he belongs. He wrote bad checks. He stole from his own mother!.”

“But he’ll be there for a long time.”

Little Acorn continued. “And Grandma would have to close her account and get rid of her checkbook. Pecan would open a joint account and pay her bills.”

“No, that’s not going to work,” Almond said.

“That won’t work or you don’t want it to work?”

“It won’t work.”

“Let me talk to Grandma.’’

“She’s sleeping.”

“That’s my final offer.” Little Acorn hung up the phone shaking his head. “If Dad were still alive, he’d beat the pit out of Chestnut.”

Sunflower squeezed his paw. “Just remember they choose this over and over again. Free will. What’s that thing you say? The definition of crazy?”

“ You keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

They sat there in silence.

“I hope Dad was adopted,” Little Acorn said.

Sunflower nodded in agreement. “Stupid Northwoods Squirrelfuckers.”

Poor Hazel Walnut stuck in her hoarder nest with her adult children. There is no happy ending here. Squirrel Protective Services could get involved take her out of her home and put her into Adult Foster Care, because that would be so much better.  The possibility of Chestnut overdosing was a possibility. Or  Hazel might go to sleep one  night and get her wish. Until then, life goes on as usual in the Northwoods. Unlike the Walton’s . . .no one is wishing their family members a good night.