Opinion

TV series ‘This Is Us’ presses my 1970s’ rewind button

Heidi Fedore is one of six 2017 reader columnists for The News Tribune.
Heidi Fedore is one of six 2017 reader columnists for The News Tribune. dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

Season two of NBC’s hit show “This Is Us” aired barely a week ago, and I’m ready once again to spend time with the show’s characters.

My reasons for liking the show are numerous: Maybe it’s that my dad and brothers are Pittsburgh Steelers fans and my dad was born and raised just 17 miles away. (Pittsburgh is one of the settings for “This Is Us.”)

Maybe it’s that Cat Stevens and Nick Drake serenade with their pensive lyrics in the show’s soundtrack. Maybe it’s because the 1970s’ clothes are similar to what hung in my closet.

Just add the scent of lily of the valley – Avon bath oil that my mom soaked in - and bologna, mustard, iceberg lettuce and Wonder Bread sandwiches, and my sensory nostalgia would be complete.

The show spans two time periods in an effort to explain why three siblings behave the way they do. Kate and Kevin, the twins, and Randall, the adopted son, spend each episode vying for attention and identity, even as adults. They also expend a great deal of energy ruminating on the past.

The two time periods explain the parents’ perspective and choices they made. Each character represents different personalities, struggles and triumphs. The decades unfold and explore life’s fragility, imperfections and the power of love.

They demonstrate how strongly people grip to their version of a story and how difficult it is to let go.

After each episode of “This Is Us,” I sit for a few moments, wistful and far away, remembering my own past.

When the character Kate had a hospital stay, I remembered how scared I was while having my tonsils removed at age 6 and how much a biopsy at 17 frightened me.

I remember the diet my sister and I tried. On day one, we ate three hot dogs for each meal; on day two, we had three bananas for each meal; and on day three, we managed to get down three hard-boiled eggs.

I can’t decide if I should laugh or gag with the memory as I empathize with Kate, the character who is perpetually dieting.

After reminiscing, I snap back to the present where my script has yet to be written, where I can create scenes that include relationships with my siblings free from resentment and rivalry.

I think about my parents who showed us so much grace, and how my gratitude abounds for what they provided my siblings and me.

In my own script, I acknowledge my parents did the best they could, much like the show’s parents, Jack and Rebecca Pearson.

As I prepare to turn the page into the next moment, I’m turning to a blank slate. I get to choose how I fill it. Resentment plays no part.

Working in education, I’ve witnessed firsthand how destructive resentment or anger can be.

I’ll never forget when, years ago, I asked a talented track athlete why he quit the sport. He explained that his absent biological father was a good athlete and he didn’t want to be like him.

His fury and hurt were so powerful, I couldn’t convince him that a college scholarship was a distinct possibility.

I’ve seen countless students sabotage their grades — or worse, their health — because they were angry with their parents.

It’s helpful to hear the words of the character Kate, who says to her employer’s uncooperative teenage daughter: “You gotta cut your mom a break.”

It’s not just teenagers who need to cut breaks. As adults, we’re drawn to hit the rewind button and play over and over the deeply imprinting films of our lives.

I will continue to watch “This Is Us,” and every time a scene triggers sadness or another emotion, I’ll keep reminding myself that this was us.

And then I’ll focus on the next decade and title it, “This Is What I Want to Be.”

Heidi Fedore of Lakewood is a middle school principal in Gig Harbor. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Reach her by email at hfedore@hotmail.com.

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