Dressed in a billowy sundress on a Friday afternoon in February, she walked around to the front of my car and eyed up the scuff marks near one headlight. Occasionally she waved back at passers-by who shouted, “Hi, Molly!” (It wasn’t clear if she knew these people or not.)
Then, in her own way, she explained that life can take away but it also gives back.
As a teenager, Shannon said she had applied to a selective private school — one whose acceptance might have put her on a track to an adulthood of influence and prestige, if not necessarily future roles on TV shows like “Saturday Night Live,” “The Other Two” and “The White Lotus.”
While she awaited the school’s judgment, she was also anticipating the arrival of her Sea-Monkeys, the brine shrimp sold to trusting children with colorful comic-book ads that depicted them as exotic pets.
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That blithe attitude has been fundamental to many of Shannon’s best-known characters, like Mary Katherine Gallagher, the maladapted but plucky schoolgirl who was her signature role on “S.N.L.”
Shannon, 57, is more knowing than her oblivious characters, but she shares their determination to forge ahead happily no matter the circumstances, and that spirit is vivid in her new memoir, “Hello, Molly!”, which will be released by Ecco on April 12.
But before readers get to Shannon’s picaresque tales of her upbringing and career, they must first follow her account of one of the darkest days of her life and the automobile accident that devastated her family.
On the night of June 1, 1969, when Shannon was 4, her father, Jim, was driving the family back from an all-day party to their home in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He had been drinking, and had taken a nap earlier that afternoon. About 90 minutes into the trip, he sideswiped another car and then swerved into a steel light pole. Though Molly and her older sister, Mary, survived with injuries, their younger sister, Katie, and cousin Fran were killed in the collision; her mother died later in the hospital.
Shannon lived with relatives while her father recuperated. When she returned home, school was a blur. “I was like, why is everyone so chipper?” she said. “They were like, ‘The wheels on the bus go — ’ and I was like, I’m exhausted.