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For me, Gilmore Girls is like watching my own life, with a twist. Substitute one idyllic teenage girl with two rambunctious, active, noisy teenage boys and you get the picture.
Moms and Dads on television are made with cookie cutters. Their dramas with their children revolve around the age-old themes of dating, sex, clothes, and parties. There is generally a lot of yelling and screaming, interspersed with a lot of clowning. At the end of 20 minutes—which is how long a sitcom lasts, not counting the commercials—if everyone isn’t hugging and kissing everyone, the audience doesn’t get that voyeuristic high.
The secret of the Gilmore Girls is that it captures that bittersweet stage of a parent-child relationship when the child begins to become the parent and the parent surrenders to the child. Watching the show, you sometimes wonder who is more mature—Rory the daughter or Lorelai the mother.
Like the Gilmore girls, my children and I are the best of friends. It is a friendship unlike any other I have ever known. For, I have been friends with my children all of their lives.
When we travel together, watch television together, or go out to eat together, we fall into that familiar shorthand that is unfathomable to people outside of our little family. My children know, for example, that no matter where we happen to be, I must have my afternoon cup of tea in order to remain sane.
Unlike a friend or a partner, they do not question that need; they simply accept it as a fact of life.
When I first became a single mother, I was terrified of the prospect of raising two children on my own.
I don’t remember when I lost the panic and started to enjoy the magic.
Did I lose my fear on the day when I came home after running an errand and my children asked me to close my eyes, then led me by my hand to the garage, which they had cleaned in my absence?
Did I lose my fear when we went camping in Yosemite last summer and my children persuaded me to rent a raft and we floated down the river like in a John Wayne movie, enjoying the magnificent Sierras, basking in the knowledge that I was the only mother on the whole river with her children?
Did I lose my fear on the day my children told me that they had a birthday surprise for me and led me to the backyard where dozens of candles were twinkling in the golden glow of twilight? “Wow! It is like a French movie!” I had exclaimed, “except I don’t know where you got the idea since you have never seen one!”
After all the struggles, the loneliness, the panic attacks, the insecurity, the “I’m a complete loser” feeling, it is wonderful to know that you are in it together with your children and that they will always be there by your side.
And yet the echoes of my old fears remain.
Gilmore Girls teaches us that life’s conflicts don’t have to be about sex and drugs to make them heart-wrenching. The day-to-day ebb and flow of life happens to be full of angst and sorrow and worry and anxiety for most of us. Wondering if you can make it through a day of making the lunches, doing the laundry, mailing the bills, fixing the car, and pruning the roses is enough of a challenge for many single moms and dads. The beauty of Gilmore Girls is that it brings to life such day-to-day conflicts and makes them glamorous and sexy.
Rory isn’t a girl who has problems with sex or drugs or even grades. Yet, you feel like Rory and Lorelai are living on the edge, and you want them to succeed no matter what simply because they only have each other to live for.
My children aren’t as perfect as Rory but that is not the point. We too live a precarious life by the very nature of our situation.
In the last season’s finale, Lorelei and Rory walked up the stairs of the empty school building after Rory’s high school graduation party looking for a spot under the balustrades to secretly carve their initials. Lorelei the mother said in a hush: “Listen,” to Rory the daughter, as television viewers too perked their ears. “Listen, it is so quiet now; there is no sound of fear.” Or something to that effect. It was perhaps one of the most poignant moments in television history.
I knew precisely what she meant. My children haven’t graduated from high school yet, and unlike Rory they are not planning to attend Yale or Harvard, but I am sure now that one day I too will notice the passing of the sound of fear. I know that it will be a moment worth waiting for.
Sarita Sarvate writes commentaries for Pacific News Service and KQED.