Mending Fences and Celebrating Gilmore Girls’ A Year in the Life

Lorelai and Rory Gilmore ready for watching great tv.

This holiday season finds us in a world that’s looking somewhat bleak. The threat to democracy remains pervasive. The necessity of our masks is imperative, while the lament for strolling along busy crowded streets, giving little thought to pandemics, or the erosion of civility, grows ever more poignant. Last week, when the New York Times announced the CW broadcast debut of the Gilmore Girls’ A Year in the Life Reunion, I was filled with a delectable, burst of joy thinking about happy viewing from years gone by.

A dozen years before New Jersey

About the same time as the original series’ first season, I moved to New Jersey with my fourteen year old daughter. Ostensibly, it was to take a break from our life in Luxembourg, but really it was to patch things up. She’d been languishing with indifference at school and I was fed up with my work in film production. I had separated from her father the year before, and she had remained with him.

It was a chance for us to have time away from our known lives and to try something else. The chosen town was a charmer and within commuting distance to New York City. It had a good school district and I wouldn’t need a car. In the mornings, I left for work before my daughter’s first class, but was assured from her report card that she did in fact show up. It was also the kind of school where she said, “Only two people in my french class don’t have their own car. I happen to be one of them.” To which I’d smile, grateful that should be her particular beef.

Occasionally, she took the train after school and came to my office with discount theater tickets, and we’d see whatever she came up with. Other nights, I’d walk to Penn Station via the flower district, and fill our apartment with slightly spent blooms, giving us their last shot at glory.

She began to make friends and so did I. Yet time spent together was precious for us both, with a never ending banter that on weekends included visits to the local bookstore, or the coffee shop, or simply Trader Joe’s. But during the week, in the evenings, came the debates over what to watch. Dawson’s Creek alarmed me, populated by those sophisticated models, who were supposedly teens, examining their navels. Then there was Real World, with its twenty minutes that were genuinely about nothing, and not in the way Jerry Seinfield meant. If either of these programs appeared on tv when I was home, I’d race to the screen, and stand in front of it, waving my arms wide to shield my tender offspring from programming I deemed unworthy. This was followed by her protests at my insistence we watch The Story of the BeeGees on Biography so she’d have a firmer grasp of their place in the history of pop.

Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel as Lorelai and Rory Gilmore

Then, unsurprisingly, came Gilmore Girls. When it was on, we always agreed, because it was the one about us. I hadn’t been single since the age of 19 and she had never attended an American high school. Yet, here we were, mother and daughter, living in a gentle universe,where like Rory and Lorelai, we could gradually find our way. Those who knew us even referred to us as the Gilmore Girls. While we watched the show only sometimes, that was ok, because we already knew the script. We didn’t have the supporting cast, but we did have each other.

In the evenings we’d compare notes, and as we both gained our footing, away from our other life, we began to make amends. Me, for not being the perfect mom and devoted wife, she assumed I’d always been, and her for being, well, for being the one who has to deal with that kind of mom.

On her fifteenth birthday, December 2000.

Watching the show, I’m struck by how one notable thing about Life and Television and how Before and During the Pandemic are so very different can be seen in the shoes. In A Year in the Life the only female besides the senior Mrs. Emily Gilmore who wears comfortable looking shoes, is the crazy Naomi Shropshire. Everyone else’s legs are clad in nude hose and heels which have a sinister, oppressive looking shaft. Shoes, which in our house, ended up in piles by the door or under the bed, most often separated from their mate. The fantasy of provacative stylish footwear is something from life in the land before Zoom. Yet the show’s banter and joyous frivolity remain timeless! An effortless tickle of our funny bone, even as witty, gentle humor threatens to slip ever further from our collective grasp.

Now, twenty years later, recalling those days, I’m filled with tenderness and longing. I didn’t see A Year in the Life in 2016 when it first aired on Netflix, but there were certain parallels nonetheless. In the opening of the revival, Rory, like my own daughter, is juggling life in London. Also, the time mother and daughter have together is always so brief. But unlike Rory, rather than return to the fold, my daughter has decided to put down roots and to keep Britain as her permanent address.

Looking back, twenty years later, at what are now re-runs, you might even call them vintage, watching Lorelai and Rory change and grow, I am reminded of how we struggled to navigate the world ourselves. And eventually things did work out, we found our way. So here’s to quick witted, fast talking, bookish girls every where. To them and to their moms. To the Gilmore Girls, everywhere!

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Carrie Hayes

Carrie Hayes

is an ex-school teacher, former casting director, retired decorator, newbie grandma, hopeless romantic. Author of Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit