I Discovered Gilmore Girls After My Mom Died, And It Helps Me Remember Her

by Alaina Leary

The first thing I learned when my mom died was how many reminders of her, of us, I was left with. The Harry Potter series. Stephen King. Leaf piles. Coffee. Chinese food. Pizza with extra cinnamon sticks. Everything reminded me of the life we had shared together.

Grief is a funny thing. Some days, I reveled in the things that reminded me of her. I’d curl up in her old jean jacket and read to myself the books we used to read out loud to each other. Other days, I couldn’t even think about the fact that another Harry Potter movie was being released in theaters and she wouldn’t be there to see it with me without bursting into tears.

Gilmore Girls came into my life at exactly the right time. It had been two years since my mom’s death, and the show was in its last live on-air season. From the very first episode I watched, Season 2 Episode 7 “Like Mother, Like Daughter,” I was hooked.

I couldn’t help but see the similarities. Rory, like me, was raised by her single mom Lorelai, a woman who had a fraught relationship with Rory’s grandmother. Rory was an avid reader, kind of a loner, and somewhat socially awkward. I brought a book everywhere I went and read during lunch instead of talking. My mom and I had spent many nights on the couch, devouring movies and eating Chinese food and snacks. We had a saying that I couldn’t talk to her until she’d had her morning coffee. She’d been the fun and cool mom, someone who I regularly referred to as my best friend.

Within months, I’d finished the entirety of the show’s seven-season run, all of which I had saved to my TiVo. I had a feeling I’d be re-watching them.

Watching Gilmore Girls was one way that I could remember my mom without getting sad. While I did wish she and I had watched the series together when it was on the air, a part of me was grateful for a haven without explicit memories of her attached to it. Being a part of Rory and Lorelai’s world, a part of Stars Hollow — it was like getting to spend time with my mom without all the grief. It didn’t bring back floods of memories of her the way that movies like Harry Potter did, because she and I hadn’t watched it together. Instead, it greeted me as if it were a surprise gift from my mom from before her death, as often happens in movies where a character’s parent dies. My mom’s death had been a surprise, so she hadn’t thought to pre-package an eighteenth birthday gift for me, but I did have Gilmore Girls.

Before long, I hadn’t just re-watched the series once. I’d re-watched it and re-watched it. I’d scoured the Internet for interviews and trivia. I knew every fact on a list of “11 Things You Never Knew About Gilmore Girls.” I could regularly slip references from the show into my life, and I could quote it at will.

Rory and Lorelai guided me through my teen and college years, and unto the breach of adulthood. Without my mom there, I often asked myself if she’d react the way Lorelai did as I began dating and applying to colleges. On the night before my high school graduation, I watched Rory’s high school graduation episode and imagined my mom sticking her tongue out at me from the crowd. On the night before I moved into my college dorm for the first time, I watched Lorelai help move Rory into Yale. My mom wasn’t there to sleep over my dorm room and help me rate takeout food in the area — which I have no doubt she’d do — but I had a new tradition that reminded me of her. For all four years of college, I watched that episode the night before I moved into the dorms. When college finally ended and I was moving out into my first apartment for my first post-grad job, I watched the final two episodes of Gilmore Girls. “Mom, you’ve given me everything I need,” Rory says to Lorelai as they’re packing up. Even though she wasn’t physically present, it was exactly how I felt about my mom.

When the news of the revival first broke, I heard about it within seconds and started screaming in excitement. Like most other avid Gilmore Girls fans, I’d been crossing my fingers for a revival since, well, I finished my first binge-watch. I had so many questions I needed answered, and more importantly, I wanted more of Rory and Lorelai. Who would I look to when I had questions about my adult life and I couldn’t compare myself to Rory and my mom to Lorelai?

In some ways, though, the revival is a little bittersweet for me, too. With the recent passing of Edward Herrmann in 2014, it won’t be entirely the same. The girls will be mourning Richard’s death much like I mourned — am still mourning — my mom. The show that always allowed me to remember my mom without getting too sad will probably make me cry, and not the happy tears I cry every time I watch Lorelai ask Rory if she made valedictorian. I’ll cry and think about how Gilmore Girls premiered on October 5, which was my mom’s birthday, and how I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing that we didn’t watch the show together now that the revival is finally here. Would it be another set of grief, because my mom wouldn’t have been able to finish Gilmore Girls with me the way she couldn’t finish Harry Potter?

My mom won’t be there with me this Thanksgiving, to order pizza and turn on a movie marathon after we get home from our family party. But on November 25, A Year in the Life will give me a new piece of my relationship with my mom. I can’t wait to watch it again and again.

Alaina Leary is a native Bostonian currently completing her MA in Publishing and Writing at Emerson College. She works as a social media designer and editor. Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, BUST, AfterEllen, and others. When she’s not busy playing around with words, she spends her time surrounded by her two cats, Blue and Gansey, and at the beach with her girlfriend. She can often be found re-reading her favorite books, watching Gilmore Girls, and covering everything in glitter. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @alainaskeys.

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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