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Mind the Gap

olivia-jerram

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To me, television always belonged to my mom.

When I got a little bit older, my mom started showing me some of her favorite shows. She curated the weekly media I consumed. Into my world of television, she deposited period dramas, cooking shows, late-night talk shows, news shows, the occasional sitcom — coming from “Dragon Tales,” I thought it was monumental.

Each show she invited me to watch with her seemed like an invitation into a special club, just for adults. The more TV we watched together, the closer we became.

She talked to me about the mortgage on her house, the reasons she and Suzy didn’t get along at the PTA meetings anymore, the legal strategy for her divorce. I watched “Mad Men” with her and listened to her the way she wished her husband would have.

To her, my life was filled with grown-up problems too — I asked her how I could make my own money, and then we went and watched “Downton Abbey,” because it was Sunday.

When I moved to Berkeley, no matter how many new people I met, she was still my favorite person to talk to — we made time for each other. She paused “The Big Bang Theory,” I paused “Bob’s Burgers,” she paused “The Late Show,” I paused “Breaking Bad,” she paused “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” I didn’t have very much time to watch TV anymore, but she recommended “The Crown” to me anyway.

My mom gave me a lot of advice; advice from an infallible person is hard to say no to. But from Berkeley, I didn’t have to say no — she wasn’t there to record the shows.

When I came home from Berkeley in the summer, I started to watch “Game of Thrones.”

My mom hated the premise of the show, the popularity of the show, the way it plagued her late-night talk shows with uninteresting interviews. Shannon loved the show.

Shannon is one of the first people I met in Berkeley — one of the first friends I made — and I was one of hers. I thought Shannon was cool in the way high school freshmen gawk at seniors — she listened to mainstream 2000s pop music with coy rebellion, she performed in improv comedy sets in basements, she never ran out of dresses I hadn’t seen before, she had kissed a boy.

Shannon loved “Game of Thrones” probably only second to “Bachelor in Paradise,” so when she told me season seven was set to premiere in the summer, she convinced me to start back at season one and watch alongside her.

I would go into my bedroom with a bowl of ice cream and my laptop, politely turning down the invitation to watch “America’s Test Kitchen,” “Project Runway,” “The Martha Stewart Show.” It seemed alright to me — we didn’t have to watch everything together, we liked different things now.

One morning, my mom looked at me over her shoulder, lilac reading glasses perched midway down her nose, and told me I looked like a little slut, turning back in an instant to face her desktop computer with a quizzical, almost comical frown.

The next week over penne arrabbiata, I told my mom that I liked the astrophysics I was working on, and she asked me if I wanted to major in something that was easier for me. I lost my appetite, so I told her I had some more research to finish and went to watch “Game of Thrones.”

Shannon texted me about Jaime Lannister’s hand: “I told the Game of Thrones people that they could cut off your hands,” adding, “There’s a cancellation fee of $50, no way are we paying that.” I laughed the hardest I had laughed in two weeks.

Shannon can always make me laugh. Her humor grounded the nights I spent at home, blanket-draped in front of my HBO account, and I love her so much for it. But it didn’t make me any happier to be awake the next morning.

My mom’s new disapproval of me was livid — she looked at me in terms of all the ways I had changed. Each little difference she noticed implied I had been content to grow up more and more without her.

And when I poured myself a cup of coffee in the kitchen one morning, my mom said, “I wish I had a daughter like Rachel instead of you.”

When I drove myself back to Berkeley for the last time at the end of the summer, I stopped telling my mom things about myself. She doesn’t know that I declared my major or that I made a new friend or that I write a column every week or that I watch “BoJack Horseman.”

When she called me last week to talk to me about the cost of rent in October, she only asked me if I was happy.

Olivia Jerram writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on experiencing art through other people. Contact her at [email protected].

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