The anniversary of my mom’s death is tomorrow. I’m approaching the date with sadness obviously, but nowhere near the numbed out pain I felt saying good-bye 2 years ago. Nor is this moment as hard as waiting for the milestones of that first year to pass.

But I suspect the spring weeks between Mother’s Day – June 6th will always be raw. I will always remember the last time we spoke on the phone, and the stupid cheery orange pashmina I bought her for her birthday on May 24th that I took back several weeks later. The anxious plane ride from NYC to Pittsburgh I took with my younger sister when we knew it was the very end. Celebrating my son’s birthday while sitting shiva.

Though I’m doing fine — trying to be present and feel grateful for my husband and children and other blessings, there is still a major Judi shaped hole in my life. Her loss forced an adjustment and a rebuilding that is ongoing. As Oprah-ish as it sounds, I’ve drawn strength from myself since she died. But erasing her from the picture has had a major impact on how things look and feel in our family.

That context set the stage for my recent epic partaking of “Parenthood.” While recovering from a surgery last month, I surrendered to my bed for a week or so of pure Netflixism. I was secretly thrilled to have the excuse to watch TV all day without feeling guilty – even if I had to sacrifice a body part in order to enjoy that freedom.

I really had no idea of the emotional assault that was “Parenthood,” a familiar seeming primetime NBC drama that looked and smelled like the “Thirty-something” of my youth smushed together with “Friday Night Lights.” Lots of familiar, good-looking television actors and a Bob Dylan theme song to boot. How had I missed this?

Jesus “Parenthood,” you had me at the opening shot of Adam Braverman (NATE FISHER!) taking a jog, and subsequent scenes in the pilot of Max, his son, struggling to be like the other kids while not fitting in at Little League and at school. Duh. I pretty much started crying right there and never once looked back as I went deep into Braverman country.

The show is basically Family Porn. Watching is a form of fantasy, because as difficult the issues they present are (autism, cheating, stay at home dad/mom boredom, black mold, infertility, adoption, PTSD, addiction, cancer, aging parents), everyone faces their problems with so much grace, self-knowledge and skill at solving things in 44 minutes that you can relax and enjoy the emotional ride.

Sure, Sarah is flaky and charming and talks over Adam until Adam reassuringly tells her how it’s going to go down. Crosby is hilarious but screws up again! OMG Julia is so controlling in her pencil skirts. But they talk things out in person and don’t get resentful. They bring each other lattes like that’s a normal thing to do and the lattes don’t get cold in traffic from Berkeley to San Francisco. They get together ALL THE TIME and Camille never seems bitter about all the dishes. The couples have amazing marriages mostly. The siblings don’t seem to judge each other. The children all brush their teeth when asked. Most of the men can fix things (despite the last name they are obviously not Jewish). The women have great hair and nice selections of layered necklaces.

As I obsessively watched the show, condensing 6 seasons into six weeks, it felt like my job. I literally could not stop pressing “Next Episode” and felt like a sneaky junkie at times watching during the day when I should have been doing important things. I cried, on average like 4 times an episode. I laughed when Adam got “The Fever” and felt so frustrated for Kristina because of Max and his Aspberger’s, but was also annoyed that she never seemed to get a babysitter that wasn’t family. I wondered if Kristina was a robot. I wished Mr. Cyr, the high school English teacher had been my boyfriend. I loved the Max/Hank storyline even though it was hard to watch.

Of course I knew it was manipulative to play sad music while someone was going through chemo and I knew it was manipulative to play sad music when someone was being mean to a kid with Asbergers but I cried my heart out anyway. I cried for all of the baseball games my mom wouldn’t attend (not that either of my kids play baseball) and I cried that my relationship with my dad wasn’t as easy as Sarah and Julia’s with Zeek, and that my marriage didn’t feature the same obvious gloss and excellent communication that these couples had.

But I got over it. Because it’s TV and is supposed to elicit these feelings – that’s kind of the whole point. As a viewer you’re supposed to project your deficits onto a fictional family that seriously has it together. It can be cathartic to go on that kind of journey and to binge on something this obvious, but at the end of the day The Bravermans aren’t real and I can’t really hug or squeeze any of them or have them bring me a latte. Whether or not I have similar issues in my own life, they will never be written as concisely or acted as well as these professionals can convey them. The characters can feel real and I can feel connected to their joys and struggles, but at the end of the binge, they are still crafted by a pen and shaped by a director.

I thought I would be devastated when I finished watching last week, but I was satisfied with their treatment of the aging parents storyline and how the finale tied things up with a lovely flash forward montage to a sad song.

No spoilers, but The Bravermans are going to be ok, and so am I. It makes sense why watching this particular show during this period of time felt so compulsively important. I was clearly getting something under my belt before this two-year anniversary tomorrow, trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense once more, processing.

I loved my time with the Bravermans but I’m feeling free now to read books again, do some writing, or hang out with my own perfect/imperfect family.

i once was a girl

I haven’t been mistaken for a girl in a while. People trying to get my attention who don’t know me call me ma’am, lady, miss, or hey you tired looking female person. I’m no girl, and most days I’m good with that.

But I very much cherish the show “Girls.” I think it’s moving and totally unexpected. The characters remind me of all the curious, honest and narcissist New Yorkers I know and love — evocative combinations of some of my most favorite people. The writing and acting are both spot on. For better or worse, this is how girls who like each other talk to each other. “Girls” perfectly showcases how being in your 20’s is an exhilarating but equally horrifying time.

The show and creator Lena Dunham have been getting some great reviews, but also getting slammed for various reasons. From nepotism to the lack of racial diversity amongst the characters, to it being depressing, to the fact that these spoiled characters need to “Get a job!” I am confused by why people seem so pissed of about the show. I don’t really want to defend myself for liking it. People who don’t want to watch it or want to complain that it only got made because of Brian Williams and David Mamet are bitter and shouldn’t watch it. But they’ll miss hearing an amazingly formed voice bend around some serious funny. I’ve listened to a lot of interviews with this girl/woman and she is a girls’ girl, in that she has an open mind and is willing to put herself out there in ballsy way. And one of the most awesome things is that she’s not on TV because she’s hot. She’s on TV because she’s smart, funny and fearless.

(Ok, so I guess I am defending it).

But really, how great was it on this most recent episode when Hannah was at the doctor and they called out her weight (and it wasn’t 111 pounds), and she said something like: “Actually, I had my belt on.” I mean, who hasn’t thought or even said that?! And the humorless doctor/nurse was perfect.

The characters are so talky and therapized and 70’s Woody Allenish! I love the way the Allison Williams character is so pretty and poised and has the good entry level job and so therefore is the responsible one making the STD and abortion appointments at the women’s clinic, and of course has the really cute doting boyfriend probably also with a great job who probably just got his first book deal or whatever at age 25. And yet, she’s unhappy and unfulfilled and annoyed with Jessa (the British one) for being so Joni Mitchell-ish and getting to wear floaty pants and floppy hats. While Jessa is miserable and caught up in her own novelistic drama that she created by being irresponsible and self absorbed? And Hannah’s job interview where she let herself get comfortable and flirty enough to make a rape joke? Cringe-worthy in the best “Louie” way.

Far from being a flip show about people who are unlikeable, I think “Girls” is really deep and emotional and trying to get to the root of what it means to be an independent person in the world, flailing around trying to figure out what you think everyone else already knows. Dunham elegantly shows us how women put up with a lot of terrible things in relationships in order to have a few pathetic grasps of good feeling that come from being desired or desirable – I’d say that’s something a lot of women can relate to. It definitely struck a chord with me.

“I almost came,” Hannah says hopefully, after having silly, disappointing sex – because that’s exactly what would have happened in that situation. She’d convince herself it was ok because he got off, and even offered her a sports drink afterwards. And then she’d go talk it over with her friends on a bench with some frozen dairy treat made from questionable chemicals. And then, the vapid friend, the one who might be in law school and still wears Juicy sweatsuits, would whip out some stupid book similar to “The Rules” and quote from it earnestly. Yep, pretty much.

I love this show because it reflects a moment in a time that is so fertile with material, but also so heinous to live through. I’m so relieved to be out of there personally, but grateful to artists/thinkers “wunder”whatevers like Lena Dunham. I’m so excited to hear more from someone this young and this good.