Nobody can deny the pull that Gilmore Girls had during its original run. I was twelve when it first aired and I can distinctly remember thinking I had never seen anything like it. A television series centered on a ravishing, caffeine-addicted, adorably loquacious single mom raising her bookish, delightful, charmingly beautiful sixteen-year-old – the age the mother was when she birthed her? And people liked it?
I grew up in a small household filled with anger, resentment, guilt, regret, pride, and loneliness. They poisoned the air I breathed and were evident in the way my parents’ voices thundered through walls and ceilings, carried in the wind with their slammed doors and the hatred that burned with every furious word. How the tiny apartment contained us all is beyond me; all I know is that they took up residence with us for fourteen years.
Long after the day my father packed his bags and left us behind.
In the wake of my father’s abandonment he took with him all the home videos, the scent of his cologne, the feel of my mother’s embrace, and my first heart. It would be many years before I’d finally constructed a new one that didn’t shatter every time he came near. All that remained of the father who filled the first six years of my life with a love that knew no boundaries was a hole in the wall shaped perfectly to his fist, a woman whose soul never fully recovered from his betrayals, and a child scattered into a million pieces on the living room floor.
It was nothing short of inevitable that I would drink in Lorelai as if she were the first taste of water I came across in the Sahara desert. She fascinated me to no end and I longed for the mother-daughter relationship she and Rory had. You can just tell that Lorelai had a warmth she made sure her daughter was bathed in daily and that it had always been that way. They had an ease about them, an openness, a camaraderie that was alien to my own upbringing. No matter who Rory would become, no matter how she’d change, her mother’s love would stand against the tests of time.
My mother, on the other hand, is very reserved in her affections for me. My father stole a lot of spark from her and its place sat a bitterness that continues to stew over two decades later. It permeated every area of her life and trickled down to our relationship as mother and daughter.
I was a lost child, navigating the waters of divorce alone. I was thrown into its current unable to keep my head above water and I was self-taught, self-reliant in learning exactly how to breathe through the waves. I spiraled into a tornado of loud-mouthed comebacks and doing as much as I could to avoid returning home, where the air felt too congested despite all the space my father’s presence no longer filled. It all leaked into my confused teenage melancholy years as I shut my heart (and at times, my brain) off, favouring a live in the moment way of living instead.
She never forgave me for it all.
There are no I love yous exchanged between us, no mani-pedis, not even any of those fake photos of us with our arms thrown nonchalantly around the other’s shoulders, smiling to mask that the happy times between us were too rare. The feel of being encircled in my mother’s arms are present only in cloud-bordered memories. It was as if she had an allotted number of hugs to give; she went from being a mother who preferred to sit in the backseat with me just so she could hold me, to permitting me on embrace that was more half hug, half pat on the back, once a year on my birthday. When I turned 24, even my special day ceased to hold any relevance for her. That previous day was the last day I ever felt like I was someone’s daughter.
My mother doesn’t inquire about my emotional well-being and is extremely guarded over her own. The wall she erected around her heart is made of an impenetrable substance gifted from the gods; not one person can even attempt to tear it down because their efforts are sooner destroyed by the land minds hidden at its perimeter. Zeus and his lightning bolts, Thor and his hammer, The Hulk and his fists …if they would fail to break through, what chance did I have?
We’re lucky to share a laugh every now and then but never anything much more. There was never any chance of having a third of what the Gilmore Girls have. Having my own Lorelai was a dream I couldn’t make manifest in reality, a reality I came to terms with by the end of the first season of the show.
But then something happened that made Lorelai a central point in my life again.
Except this time, I wasn’t hoping for a Lorelai Gilmore.
I was hoping to become her.
On a beautiful, sunny day in early April, five days shy of my eighteenth birthday, I gave birth to what was the first shining light in my life. Unlike Lorelai, I had my boyfriend of nearly three years (now husband) to share the parenting load with but that didn’t stop me from looking to her for guidance. She taught me how vital it is to not just raise your children but to raise them with an outpouring of love, to not just care for them but to care about them. That to be a part of their future you have to be a driving force with ever open arms in their present.
Gilmore Girls begins with Rory at sixteen and although her childhood years aren’t explored in the series, the fondness between mother and daughter is boldly underlined. I had watched the episode of Rory’s graduation from Chilton only once before and through the eyes of a child whose birthday wishes were wasted on dreams that would never be. After re-watching the series, tonight it was time to revisit that episode, that speech that would capture my heart the second time around in a way that it hadn’t the first time. Now, I wasn’t watching through the eyes of a daughter; I was watching through Lorelai’s, the eyes of a mother.
I almost forgot that these people were fictional, characters whose every line was scripted in a room full of hopeful writers aiming an arrow at my heart, aching for this reaction from someone like me. Look at this daughter who looks at her mother and thinks the absolute world of her. Look at the mother who looks at her daughter and thinks, You are the greatest part of my life. There was a warmth that settled in my stomach to see it in living colour, this parent-child bond that had been lacking in my life, that had drained my childhood of its innocence. Just the knowledge that I aspired to be one of those mothers who weren’t just respected by their children but deeply loved by them, to be one of those mothers who also respected and deeply loved their children …it helped me be at peace with the hand I was dealt.
To my mother’s credit, despite the fact that I had grown up with the transparency of her disapproval and words of disdain dripping heavily from her lips, she has turned out to be a loving grandmother. I am grateful for that but it has heightened my need to fill my children’s childhoods with the certainty of a mother’s love.
It’s been said that there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to kiss the shoreline no matter how many times it’s been sent away – and it is the perfect allegory for motherhood. I hope to never make my sons feel hollow or starved of my affections, that no one ever has to assuage them by saying, “Your mom loves you in her own way,” because it implied that they were loved in a way that they couldn’t understand.
I want my first son to know with every inch of his heart that although he came earlier than I had planned, my life has been filled with more joy than I had ever known simply because he exists in the world. The fact that I get to see his life unfold, that I get to say I was part of it all, is the cherry on top.
If I couldn’t be a Rory in this world, I would be a Lorelai.
I rewound and watched and rewound and watched. And I cried. Before each restart of the scene, I would look over to my right, a few feet away. There on the couch was the boy who made me a mother. He was oblivious to the whirlwind of emotions that had undone me so unexpectedly, content to share the same space as I munched on a snack and feasted on the Girls while he had his rare weekend time with the PlayStation 4.
Many a time I catch myself staring unashamedly at my little boy and it’s as if the entirety of the life he’s had, the adventures we’ve had, hits me at all angles, all at once. I can still remember the weight of his newborn body against my own and how each embrace grew exponentially as he did. Chubby arms wrapped around my knees as he looked up at me, rest assured that he was cared for, loved, cherished. The top of his head inching closer to my own with each passing year, his skinny arms void of baby fat, squeezing me around the waist. On this day he stands past my shoulders and before long, I’ll be the one fitting into the strength of his embrace.
My baby is turning ten in two days’ time and it’s a milestone I still have difficulty processing because I can’t believe it’s upon us so soon.
And yet I have savoured each moment with him.
Deep down, I know that although this instant can deceive me into the notion that time has flown by with remarkable speed, my recollection of the past decade can reach far and wide, overflowing with all that he has added to my life – a softness I hadn’t known about myself, a laugh that I wish I could bottle up and carry through life with me in my pocket, an overprotective nature that revealed itself the moment he announced his arrival into the universe, a love that would define my very reason for being.
There are times when I think of all the different directions my life could have taken me. I envision myself in a set of choices and circumstances that didn’t involve that of being a young mother, the aftermath of having stumbled upon a lasting love at fresh-faced fifteen, all the ways that lead me here. And it feels completely foreign to me – incomplete and rough around the edges. I look at him and all that we’ve endured and I’m undoubtedly certain that had I stepped onto the opposite path, the ghost of what his laugh would have sounded like would haunt me all the days of my life. I would have spent an endless amount of documented time obsessively pondering over what he would look like and the slight, subtle changes in his appearance and personality from day to day. I would have mourned never knowing what it felt like to hold him in my arms. And the invisible rope that tied his heart to mine would weigh me down like a heavy phantom limb, along with the knowledge that I could have kept his heart beating if I wanted.
What I’m trying to say is that my life without him is unimaginable; I’ll let no one tell him – or me – differently.
When I was pregnant with my second child, a haunting thought came over me. Did I have enough love in me to give? As an only child, I marveled at how parents could lavish balance amongst love, time, and attention upon more than one offspring. Lorelai couldn’t help me on this matter but I knew undoubtedly that I would mother every child of mine with a Lorelai way of doing things. My second son came into the world when I was twenty-three and the first lesson he taught me was that my world had room, my heart had room. My heart exploded to twice its size in depth and in strength as it rearranged itself to fit in the many joys and – hopefully few – sorrows of his life.
I wear his laugh like a tattoo on my skin and sometimes I wonder how I’ve only carried his smile in the deepest part of my heart for only fours years because it’s as if I dreamed him into life long before that. He taught me that you can belong to more than one person, that parts of you can live in more than one soul. He will live alongside his brother, another Rory to walk the world.
As I sit here and praise Lorelai for giving me the foundation on which I built upon the mother I hoped to grow into, I also happily lie in wait for all the following installments of my sons’ story, and of our stories as mother and son. I actually anticipate the teenage years with all its slamming doors and words we’ll scream but don’t mean because I know that despite their confusing teenage melancholy years, I won’t give up on them. No matter who they turn out to be, I won’t just love them, they’ll know just how much.
Through the years of their childhood, their teenage years, adulthood, forever …I’ll be armed and ready with love for whatever comes – with the (mostly) cool and calm demeanour, ever present, caffeine-chugging, Rory first beliefs of the luminous Lorelai Gilmore to lead the way.
I love Lorelai and Rory’s story and I look forward, ever forward, to the rest of the Mommy-Jayden story and the Mommy-Tristan story.
To my beautiful boys – even when I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom, when I’m down to the last pebble in my happy wagon, when it’s simply one of those days …my heart is irrevocably full because I have you two for sons. Thank you for breathing life and colour into my world. I love you, I love you, I love you. I can weave sentence after sentence and string along a thousand ways to say it but that is always the bottom line. I hope that in the spaces between the times I tell you I love you, the words live within your hearts without a hint of doubt and with the strength of steel.