For the Love of Zombies

Although November 20, 2022 was a day like any other day for most people, for my Son and I, it brought about an end of an era.

On that date, the series finale of “The Walking Dead” TV show aired.  This wasn’t just the end of any TV show. It was the end of a show that changed my relationship with my Son.


My Son discovered “The Walking Dead” (TWD) the Summer of 2013 which was just before starting 8th grade, the transition year before starting high school.

Knowing that the horror genre was not one of his favorites, I thought for sure this would be a short-lived adventure.

AND, one I certainly never thought I’d end up on with him.

Boy was I wrong!

It all started with a chance opportunity to hear some of the TWD cast members speak at a convention near our home in September of 2013. I was fortunate enough to get free passes, and because I have written screenplays, and love to hear behind the scene stories of filmmaking, I figured even if I wasn’t interested in the show, I could still appreciate what they had to say. And earn me some points with my then 13 year-old Son.

 Plus, we might actually have fun together at the convention.

As I listened to the actors speak, my perspective of this show shifted. I discovered it might not be just an apocalyptic zombie show, and there could possibly be more to it. BUT, the only way to find out for sure was to watch a few episodes.

My Son with 3 of the actors that played walkers on the show. Michael Koske, on the far left has had a very lucrative career playing zombies on TWD.

That was all it took. I was sucked in and the world of “The Walking Dead” officially became my Son and my thing.

By this point 3 seasons had passed, so we had some catching up to do before Season 4 started in Mid-October. AND, this was before streaming services were the big thing, so we had to rent DVD’s. Yes, rent DVD’s. Which is just what we did. We were hell bent and determined to be caught up by the start of the new season.

It was also very helpful that AMC replayed the previous season leading up to the new season and often did marathons.

We both became completely immersed in the TWD world and couldn’t wait for Sunday nights when the show aired. AND, between breaks in the season and seasons we were sure to find other related things to do.

Like road tripping to Georgia in the Summer of 2014 to tour areas where they film the show.

AND, in 2015 we went to our first Walker Stalker Con, which was a convention strictly dedicated to The Walking Dead. We were able to meet Chandler Riggs, the actor who played Carl, and Greg Nicotero, the mastermind behind the zombie makeup. Being close in age to not only Chandler Riggs, but also the character Carl, my Son was extremely excited to meet him because as can be expected Carl was his favorite character.

My Son meeting Chandler Riggs “Carl” at our first Walker Stalker Con
Meeting Greg Nicotero at our first Walker Stalker Con. My Son is holding Hershel’s head.

We were novices at convention protocol at the first convention, but by our 2nd and 3rd Walker Stalker Cons we knew the drill. We thought you had to be buying an autograph or photo op in order to meet the actors. BUT we discovered they had lines for people who couldn’t afford to pay for those things, but wanted an opportunity to speak briefly with the actor. This was an amazing thing to discover and enabled us to meet the majority of actors at the convention. Some even taking pics without paying, especially because we came bearing gifts. Gifts related to a blog I was writing.

T-shirt for blog, with rice krispie brain and business card

Yes, believe it or not, I also started a blog in January of 2014 about how the show had become my new parenting tool. I endearingly called it “Waking the Walker – a Mother’s quest to survive her Son’s zombie years – AKA his teens” Because the show had a strong moral theme running through it, and as I noted earlier, the character Carl was close to my Son’s age, I was able to pull life examples and lessons from the show which enable me to get through my Son’s very typical zombie, teen brain.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/twd-apocalyptic-parenting-tactics/

I wrote this blog from 2014 through 2018, at which time my Son had left for college, which once again changed the dynamics of our relationship, and became the catalysis for this blog.

While writing “Waking the Walker” I covered topics like trust, moral compass, respect, uncertainty, motivation, fear of the unknown, being prepared, and independence. And even wrote about our road trips and convention adventures.

Writing this blog most definitely helped me work though any issues that reared their ugly head, and I can say actually helped our relationship run a little smoother.

In 2017 we took a second trip to Georgia, and just like the cons, we discovered ways to find filming sites beyond the official tours, to include an Ap that actually had locations tagged on a map. This was a fantastic way to explore the rural territories of Georgia that had become the key filming spots for TWD.

In addition, by this time, there were plenty of official touring companies around, to include Chandler Riggs father. He had some amazing behind-the-scene stories to tell for sure. Some of the other tour companies, like Atlanta Movie Tours, had actors who appeared either as extras or walkers on the show, as their tour guides, which again made their tours more than just seeing the location, you got inside stories about the filming of the scene at that specific location.

Meeting Chandler Riggs’ Dad after the tour

To say this was exciting for us is an understatement. We were so immersed in the show by this point it’s all we thought about.

As any parent knows, the teen years can very challenging, and then throw in starting high school, and you have a perfect storm of moodiness and disconnection. BUT, I got lucky, having found “The Walking Dead” at the same time. The connection we made because of the show became my saving grace, and the very thing that changed the dynamics of my relationship with my Son forever.

My Son and I cosplaying “Carol” and “Carl” for Walker Stalker Con in 2015

The show may have ended, but the changes it brought to the bond with my Son are eternal, and can never be broken. We will forever have the memories of all our adventures together, which I know for a fact would not have happened if not for “The Walking Dead”

For that I am eternally grateful!

Iron E. Singleton “T-Dog” at Walker Stalker Con in 2016.
Handed out the t-shirts at con in 2015, and he said he felt the calling to wear to this con. Took this pic for no charge.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

#wakingthewoman
#mommemoir
#thewalkingdead
#TWD
#TWDfandom
#zombies
#walkerstalkercon
#mothersonrelationships

Photos from my personal collection