I’d read admiring references to Gilmore Girls, had a friend give it high marks, but I’d never seen an episode until I started hanging out on Chinese YouTube. Before I proceed any further, I have to clarify for the locals that my mother is not analogous to Emily Gilmore, the judgmental aristocratic grandmother character. They’ve been feeling sorry for me since I said the show was exactly like my family, confusion that stems perhaps from the fact that like Emily’s daughter Lorelei, I’m a single parent. I felt more like Lorelei’s daughter Rory in my own family—but the parallels go way farther than that.
Once I found it, I dialed up episode after episode, to watch, slack-jawed, while my grandmo—I mean Rory’s grandmother maneuvered her into situations that Lorelei thought she’d gotten them out of. Emily would con them into new clothes (she picked the style) or social obligations, slinging criticism left and right, and I would think, “It’s the peaches! The peaches all over again!” (and the peaches weren’t even the worst) and fire up the next episode.
I watched show after show, I lost track of time, I didn’t shut it down before my kids got home. My boy kids—who never met this grandmother, who don’t know there’s a debate about forks, who think that me having part-time clerical jobs is cool because it means I have keys to buildings downtown. They’ve given up matching their socks so they don’t have to spend as much time sorting the laundry. One is acutely conscious of social relationships; the other can hardly remember the names of his own relatives, let alone a TV family’s.
I offered to switch shows. No, no! they cried. I wondered if it was the novelty of watching on my ordinarily off-limits work computer. They complained when they realized that I watched episodes in their absence. I was still mystified—their other favorite shows are things like Star Wars and Yu Gi Oh. But the questions started—about school, about dads, about families.
The Internet connection was bad—too many interruptions—so I bought DVDs of all seven seasons, and we kept watching. They had a lot to say about Rory’s boyfriends, attitudes about kindness and honesty that warm a parent’s heart and here’s hoping they stick through adolescence. We’ve even invented an event: on Junk Food Movie Night we buy a coffee table’s worth of food from aisles of the supermarket normally untraveled and watch a movie together (I think one appeal of the show to adults is that those ladies eat anything and everything and never diet).
And now I’ve watched the last episode (yes, guys, I watched it without you). Since it was about Rory graduating and suddenly getting a job far from home, I cried. Lorelei tried to keep a stiff upper lip and tried to explain it and cried. I’m glad I don’t have to explain this parental response to a fabulous kid growing up, not yet. The Gamble Guys are still building their muscles and testing the ropes. For now they want me along as they see the world, and I want to be there. But I’m feeding them—skills, support, opportunities—to be able to leave as well.