“Life on Walton’s Mountain never seemed more stable than when I was 18 and in college. It was comforting to know that the family was always there, knowing exactly what they were doing, and accepting it as the right and necessary way to live. Each of us has a secret life, private dreams, and aspirations and fantasies that we are hesitant to share with others. I had always associated my mother with our home, and thought the boundaries of her life were within the walls of that house. Then, one day, I happened to stumble across my mother's private dream.”
Olivia paints a portrait of the Mountain as John-Boy drives toward her. He sneaks up, and discovers her secret: she likes to paint. John-Boy thinks her painting is very good, but Olivia isn’t so sure (having thrown away all of her other paintings). On the way home, John-Boy suggests she take art lessons, free one-night-a-week classes at the Charlottesville high school. The only problem is that Olivia doesn’t know how to drive, but John-Boy offers to teach her. At supper, Mary Ellen talks about medicine and diseases, her new career as a nurse. Suddenly Olivia blurts out that John-Boy is teaching her to drive so she can go to night school for painting. John remembers how his wife used to like to draw. After supper, Olivia talks to Jim Bob and Elizabeth about her plans. When Grandma suggests she take classes in sewing or cooking, John says she knows enough of those things, but needs something new in her life. Olivia remembers how Grandma used to complain about doing the same thing over and over.
Later, Olivia asks John-Boy a driver’s license question for her upcoming test. At the same time, Erin learns to sew. Mary Ellen prepares to go out with Don Millman. He’s going to be a doctor, and she a nurse. Erin imitates how Mary Ellen earlier sounded “Mr. and Mrs. Don Millman”, but the family ignores her. Upstairs, Elizabeth shows Jim Bob her painting, not understanding why her mother needs to take lessons to paint.
John-Boy takes his Momma to Charlottesville to enroll for the class. They find a class called “Beginners Water Color class” that is held Tuesday nights from seven to nine o’clock. Later, John-Boy shows Olivia how to start his car, and they abruptly move forward, mostly out-of-control. After a nerve-racking drive, they come to a stop a foot in front of a tree. Grandpa, John, and John-Boy argue about the best way to teach her to drive. (Grandpa says that he drove the first car on Walton’s Mountain.)
The family waits for John-Boy and Olivia to return from her test. Finally, they drive up: Olivia has passed the test. And her first art class is tonight! When the time comes, she starts the car, and after rolling backward for a moment, and then drives off to class. At the high school, Olivia finds the classroom and is introduced to the teacher: Joshua Williams. He then introduces Olivia to her new classmates, tomorrow’s greatest painters. Olivia looks at a bowl of apples and then onto the blank canvas. She thinks it looks so empty. Olivia says she has painted the Mountain because it looks so strong and comforting, and seems to say “don’t worry I’ll always be here, watching over you”.
At home, Olivia talks to John about her teacher, who seems to know what she is thinking about painting before she says it. Soon, Mary Ellen returns from her date, but John tells her that her bedtime is nine o’clock on weekdays. He wonders what Don and her talk about, and Mary Ellen says, “sutures”. At next week’s class, Joshua says “good-night” to the woman (Janice and Florence) as they leave. Olivia is the last to leave, waiting to show him her finally “round” apples. He says she still needs more shading, which brings out her sensitivity to criticism. Olivia then shows him the picture of the Mountain that she painted. The qualities he sees in the painting, Joshua says he sees in her. Joshua asks her about becoming a real artist, leading a different type of life, one where you can do whatever you want. But Olivia says she has seven children at home. He asks her to go for a cup of coffee, and Olivia accepts.
On the porch, Mary Ellen and Don are discussing aspects of doctoring when Grandma interrupts them, saying it is time to come inside. Mary Ellen thinks her grandmother is old-fashion, but Don agrees with Grandma, saying women need looking after. Mary Ellen tells Don that she has decided to become a doctor. Don asks her why she is competing against him. Mary Ellen becomes mad, and storms inside. When she tells Grandma that she intends to become a doctor, Grandma asks her to name one. Mary Ellen says: Dr. Marie Curie, Dr. Claris Swain, Dr. Alice Hamilton, Dr. Emily Dunning Barringer, and Miss Mary Ellen Walton. At the coffee shop, Joshua and Olivia talk about Paul Gauguin, his wife, and leaving for Tahiti. Mary Cazet also left Philadelphia for Paris. Joshua talks about a lovely square in Paris where all the artists paint. He wants to live there, and suggests they both go there. Olivia wonders who will feed the children, telling him once again that she is an ordinary woman.
Olivia tries to hurry the children so she can go to a Richmond art museum with her class. John is going to Scottsville on a job, so can’t go with her (doesn’t really like museums anyway). Grandpa is cutting firewood today. Grandma thinks that Olivia is gallivanting around the country. John-Boy runs down with the children, catching a ride with his father, since Olivia is borrowing his car for the day. The family discusses the French painter Paul Gauguin who ran off to paint naked woman in Tahiti. Grandpa says he was a great painter, but Grandma wants to hear his wife’s side of the story. Mary Ellen sasses back at her mother when Olivia asks her to do something. When Mary Ellen runs off, Olivia races after her. She insists that her daughter tell her what is wrong. Mary Ellen asks if it is all right for women to become doctors? Olivia says that women do most of the doctoring anyway and they might as well get a college degree and get paid for it. Mary Ellen promises her Momma that she will take care of the children while she is gone.
Mrs. Riddle and Mrs. Hallet arrive at where Joshua and Mr. Evanston wait for the group. Soon, Olivia drives up. Joshua seats the two women between Mr. Evanston, while Olivia sits up front with the driver, Joshua. At the museum they look at an 1872 painting by Winslow Homer. Joshua and Olivia look at a particular painting of a man looking fondly at a woman, and it is obviously that Joshua is looking fondly at Olivia. When they return to their cars Evanston escorts the two women home, while Joshua approached Olivia, and (unexpectedly) kisses her. She looks at him, unbelieving, and gets into her car without speaking.
The next Tuesday, Mary Ellen tells Olivia and Grandma that she is going to become a doctor. Grandma says that she’ll feel different when she’s alone with only books to read. Olivia announces she is not going to class tonight. John wonders why she isn’t going to class, but Olivia doesn’t want to talk about it. He just sits down near her, and silently waits for her. Soon she says that Joshua is more interested in her than he should be, then admits he kissed her. John listens but is noticeably angered at what he is hearing. He suggests she talk with her teacher and straighten things out, knowing she rarely likes to back off before things are settled. Olivia decides to think about it for a while.
At class, Joshua finds that Olivia is not at her area. After class, he drives to Walton’s Mountain. At the front door, Olivia says she had wanted to talk with him. He sits on the sofa, on the knitting that she is forever leaving there. She offers him lemonade, and she comments how wonderful her kitchen looks. She tells Joshua that she has lived in the house for twenty years, and had met her husband when she was sixteen year old. Olivia tells him that her life, her knitting, and her flowers, all are part of who she is, and she is happy to have such a life. John walks in so he can hear what she is saying, but so he can’t be seen by the pair. Joshua apologizes, saying he didn’t listen and believe to what she was telling him. Olivia sees John, and introduces him to Joshua, who asks if she can return to class. He says okay, and Joshua leaves. Olivia asks John, “Did I do good?”, and John says, “Did just fine.” Mary Ellen sees Joshua leave, and Olivia tells her that he is her teacher. Then Don Millman walks up. Not knowing what to say to him, Olivia tells her daughter to see what he has to say. Don tells her that he tried to call, but they have no phone, and says, “How are you going to be a doctor without a telephone?” They take a walk together.
“The Mountain colored our lives when we lived in its shadow, and even after, when the course of our lives led us far away. Wherever I may be, with the coming of night, also comes the whisper of those long-ago voices.”
Olivia: What's going on in there, you girls?
Mary Ellen: Nothing, Mama.
Olivia: Sounded like somebody whistling.
Mary Ellen: Mama, it's just Guy, he promised he'd whistle goodnight to me from the road.
Ben: I thought he was a doctor, not a mocking bird!
Mary Ellen: Oh, will you make Ben shut-up?
Olivia: Be quiet, Ben.
Mary Ellen: Can I please whistle back, Mama?
Olivia: Go ahead, Mary Ellen, or else he'll be out there all night.
Mary Ellen whistles.
Dr. Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) was a physician, social reformer, and professor of industrial medicine. She was best known for her research on toxic substances in the workplace. More information is available at: http://www.alicehamilton.org/.
Dr. Emily Dunning Barringer (1876-1961) was a pioneer ambulance surgeon. Her information can be found at: http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/barringer-ed.html
Dr. Marie Curie is best known as the discoverer of the radioactive elements polonium and radium and as the first person to win two Nobel prizes. Information about her can be found at: http://www.mariecurie.org/ and http://www.aip.org/history/curie/.
Dr. Emily Dunning (1876-1961) was a pioneer ambulance surgeon. After being influenced by a speech by Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi, Dunning decided to study medicine. She attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and, in 1901, earned a medical degree from the Cornell University Medical School. Information on her can be found at: http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/barringer-ed.html.
I couldn’t find information on Claris Swain.
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was one of American’s greatest artists. Information about Homer is located at: http://web.syr.edu/~ribond/homer.html.
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), a French painter and woodcut artist, sold 30 paintings in 1891 and with the proceeds went to Tahiti. There he spent two years living poorly, painting some of his finest pictures, and writing Noa Noa (tr. 1947), an autobiographical novel set in Tahiti. Information about him can be found at: http://www.encyclopedia.com/articlesnew/04954.html.
Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Joshua Williams (David Selby); Mr. Evanston (Roger Price); Mrs. Riddle (Ysabel MacClosky); Mrs. Hallett (Iris Korn); Don Millman (Biff Warren).