Once upon a time in my younger years, my parents asked me to check in on my grandmother, Nonni Kate, every afternoon while they were enjoying an extended vacation. She had just had surgery and my special assignment was to drive to her home, prepare a light lunch and make sure that she was well.
If you’re an avid follower of the 360Women blog, you already know my opinion of grandmothers in general (Grandmothers Rock) and that I never considered visiting with my grandmother a chore or burden. She was a strong, independent woman who walked everywhere, loved working in her garden, did most of her own home repairs and had only one weakness: TV Soap Operas. She loved All My Children, One Life to Live and, perhaps most of all, General Hospital.
At the time, these shows were only a half hour long and began at high noon on the West Coast. So, after fixing lunch, my grandmother and I would sit down at the little table in her breakfast room, turn on the small TV set and watch “her shows” (as she loved to call them). I was often preparing lunch during All My Children and usually sat down just in time for General Hospital.
By the time I was half way through my episode on my first day of this special family assignment, I was hooked and have been an avid viewer for more than 30 years. I have watched the Luke and Laura saga from the beginning. I am a fan of all the wealthy mobsters who live in the fictional town of Port Charles, New York; especially that sexy and handsome, Sonny Corinthos. (Interesting that such a tiny town would have big enough crime activity to support so many mobster career opportunities).
Like many, I kept my General Hospital addiction a secret for decades – until I was asked to attend a women’s roundtable in San Francisco a few years ago. The guest list was comprised of fifteen fascinating women and I was honored to be included in this prestigious group. As an ice-breaker, the host asked all of us to introduce ourselves, give our birth order and share a favorite television show or other program we had been following for many years.
You can imagine how my jaw (and those of many others) dropped when the third woman to speak admitted her addiction to the daytime soap opera, General Hospital. She sheepishly explained how she had begun following the mini-drama when her aunt stepped in to babysit her after her mother returned to work after her father had died. She had kept up with episodes by taping them (or later streaming) them and watching them at the end of her workday. She also emphasized that her loyalty to the show was partly due to the way it linked her to her loving aunt.
You could hear the titters around the room, but when she was done, everyone politely nodded with quiet support.
But when it was time for the eighth woman to speak, she looked over to the third and confessed she was also a General Hospital groupie who had begun watching with her roommate in her college dorm. Her roommate had long been her best friend and now that they were living on separate coasts, the show kept them connected and their friendship current.
As the eleventh woman in line, I was so hyped and excited to discover that I am no longer forced to be a closet soap opera fan, that I could hardly wait to speak and practically jumped out of my seat to declare my love of General Hospital. Needless to say, loud laughter and enthusiastic applause ensued.
What do these daytime dramas deliver day after day? Continuity. Consistency. Comfort. Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning other obvious offerings like sex, romance, weddings, divorces, horrific accidents, miracle healings and weird natural disasters that only happen in soap operas.
I love that the family names and their matriarchs or patriarchs that were created in in the beginning are still around 50 years later. Yes, the Quartermaines, the Spencers and the Cassidines still live in Port Charles. Continuity raised to an all-time high. (Ancestry.com would have pages and pages on these family histories).
I love that Luke and Laura’s wedding – in November 1981 – is still ranked among the most watched daytime television event ever with 30 million viewers!
But what I love most of all is the most important thing these daytime dramas offer us: Connection. For most of our lives, General Hospital has served as another tribal ritual that links us to the most important people in our lives. Our mothers and aunts. Our roommates and childhood friends. My beautiful, loving grandmother.
It’s a plot twist the creators of Port Charles and its residents probably never saw coming.
What are your family rituals? What links you to the other members of your tribe? Please share them in the Comments section and help us expand those connections.