The deafening crack of thunder shook the gymnastics floor and rattled me on the bleachers. I prayed that the torrential mid-summer downpour would slow down before we made a run for the car after my daughter’s tumbling lesson. I could feel a thin line of sweat making its way down my back when another huge boom muffled a scream. My daughter was on the ground clutching her dislocated knee as coaches ran towards her. The rest is a blur of rain, orthopedists, and crutches. She was sentenced to time on the couch with a regimen of anti-inflammatories and ice packs.
I tried not to panic about our family vacation, which was less than two weeks away featuring long walking tours, and attempted to hide my anxiety over the puffy black and blue knee. Twenty minutes on, 20 minutes off. I couldn’t breathe.
“Mom, you’re not helping. I can feel your anxiety,” my daughter said.
What else is new?
I would’ve done anything to take away her pain, and clearly, she sensed my weakness, talking me into watching just one or two episodes of “Gilmore Girls.” Ten days and seven seasons later, I learned to appreciate the appeal of binge watching in general, and specifically, the ins and outs of the complex and heart-warming Lorelei and Rory relationship.
“See? They’re just like you and me,” my daughter beamed.
I didn’t see it.
“Minus the teen pregnancy, junk food, and Christmas maybe…” I said.
“But that’s what I mean,” she insisted. “The sarcasm, the laughs, the fun… we’re Lorelei and Rory.”
I still didn’t see it, but I also couldn’t stop watching. There was something highly appealing about this mother-daughter duo, which got me thinking about our own relationship.
My daughter was not always easy. By the time she was 3 years old, she was a self-declared vegetarian, extremely picky about her clothes, and practically running the preschool. She was exceptionally verbal and unreasonably stubborn. She refused to participate in music lessons because “the music teacher’s voice gives me a headache” and fired the swim instructor because “he’s not the boss of me.” (For the record, I was, and still am, the boss of her, so I taught her how to swim in one afternoon.) Because she was precocious (code word for pain-in-the-ass), she acted like a typical fully-grown teenager by the time she was in sixth grade.
“Thank goodness she’s getting it out of her system early,” I told my friend, who eyed me like a fool. “Wait until she goes to high school,” she warned. And I dreaded it: I’d read the books, watched the movies, and cried with my friends who have older daughters. If this is how she acted at 12, what the heck was I in for?
I was in for “Gilmore Girls,” but I didn’t yet know it.
When I first watched the show, I failed to see any similarities to my own life, but I was attracted and charmed by the universal truth it presented. The adventures, secret language, knowing glimpses, private jokes, immense love, like, admiration, and mutual respect is palpable. Their relationship creates a huge, soft, safe space in which to land and just be. I realized that that’s exactly what I’d hoped to create for my kid, and her insistence that we resemble Lorelei and Rory confirms that she feels it.
My daughter knows that her secrets are safe with me, and I know that I can confide in her as well. We’ve been accused of having our own special language that starts with a knowing glance, one or two OMGs, and an acknowledgement of something only the two of us find funny, appalling, or even remotely interesting. We have our foods, road trips, and spontaneous adventures and actually carve out time to spend together. We laugh and cry until it hurts, and like the Gilmores, subscribe to the notion that coffee cures everything.
My daughter and I are pumped for the Netflix premiere of the four-part reunion. We’re trying to decide how to maximize the trip back to Stars Hollow: Binge watch? Ration the fun over a number of days? Who am I kidding—we’ll never last. I cherish that my daughter and I share a true friendship, but it’s never been my goal to be her best friend. Like everything in parenting, serendipity is in the stars, and the special moments reside deep in the hollows between them.