They Lead, We Follow
Photo: Roy Voets/Netflix
BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL
“Where You Lead” by Carol King was the song chosen as the theme for the Gilmore Girls TV show. It proved not only to exemplify the relationship between the offbeat mother and preppy daughter, but the loyal following that watched the show for seven years.
It came on the scene in 2000, when my now 18-year-old daughter, Meg, was three years old. We wanted to watch because it was about mother and daughter. Immediately, Meg declared, “It’s us.”
I never had the heart to explain that the show’s scenario could not have been further from our situation.
“Lorelai” (Lauren Graham) got pregnant at sixteen, ran away from her well-off and rather cold mother, “Emily” (Kelly Bishop), and father, “Richard” (Edward Herrmann), had her baby, “Rory” (Alexis Bledel), and became a maid to support the two of them. She reunited with her estranged parents when it was time for Rory to go to a posh high school, which Lorelai couldn’t afford. Emily blackmailed Lorelai: in exchange for the tuition, the young mother and daughter would have to go to dinner at the elder Gilmore’s mansion every Friday night. Once the grandmother entered the picture, Meg decided that character was like my mother, and the multigenerational drama rooted even more firmly its place in her mind as our family’s small screen twin.
In contrast, I had been married to my husband, Neil, for eleven years by the time Meg was born. My mother sold her home in the Bronx and moved across the street from me. She was already commuting to help me with Meg’s older brother, Luke, who was three. Now with two children in my house, my mother decided that there would be more work to do, and it would be easier to do it if she were closer by.
Also, we live in the glamorous, yet gritty, Manhattan. The Gilmores lived in the fictional, idyllic town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. (I always expected the big reveal to be that the whole series took place inside a snow globe.)
But, when you want something to be true, and you want it bad enough, you make it so.
From the dawn of the millennium until 2007, when the show aired its final episode, Meg and I found a way to relate to single mother Lorelai, who went on to own the Dragonfly Inn, and Rory, who eventually graduated from Yale, with journalistic aspirations.
Nine years later, with Netflix’s revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, we finally can genuinely see us in them.
The streaming series, consisting of four 90-minute episodes, each occurring during a season—fall, winter, spring and summer—has Rory returning to Stars Hallow for her grandfather’s funeral.
Emily is now a widow, which my mother’s been for quite a long time.
Rory is now in her thirties, and trying to find herself. Unlike her TV counterpart, Meg has not yet graduated, nor is she living “a vagabond life,” as Rory’s grandmother calls her globetrotting; she is however finding herself by trying college on for size. Her current career field of choice is publishing, after a few years of talking about a professional life in fashion. The precursor to that was acting. “This is my time to be rootless,” says Rory. That pretty much sums up Meg right now.
And then, there’s Lorelai. She’s with “Luke” (Scott Patterson) and is still running her bed-and-breakfast, but there’s a restlessness, exhibited by her comment: “I thought I knew exactly what I wanted and where I was going. But lately, I don’t know, things seem hazier.” Yes, my TV counterpart is speaking for both of us.
My first-act was as a single woman in Manhattan, working on a career in advertising. My second-act was as a wife, stay-at-home mother, and freelance writer. I feel that act three is upon me now, since my children are adults, and my mother is ninety-four and has slowed down considerably.
Every time I talk about getting a full time job or perhaps exploring a whole new career, my husband, family, and friends—one of whom is in HR executive—all look at me as though I am a child suggesting an attempt at becoming a ballerina or an astronaut.
I guess there’s something about a 50-plus woman who still sees a productive future before her that some can’t fathom. So, until I can figure out my next move, like Lorelai, I will continue to have energy to spare, but not know where to put it to good use.
I will say that the thing about Gilmore Girls, now as well as when it began, is that it’s optimistic, insightful, and full of hope; all the things you need when you’re at a crossroads.
Plus, binge watching offered the perfect opportunity to spend six straight hours with Meg.