She remembers a time when Lorelai answered the phone in hysterics. "Where's Rory?" she choked out, and Emily could see her distraught face and disheveled hair, and for one moment, her heart went out to her.
Lucky that Rory could run away to her grandparents. Lucky that she had grandparents who would pay for cabs and take her in, worry about her the way grandparents should. Lucky that Rory thought she had grandparents like that.
Lorelai was never so easy. No, Lorelai left a note and no forwarding address. She took the baby and she ran, citing something about a Mary Tyler Moore moment that even now Emily doesn't comprehend, even after the hours she spent watching that ridiculous show, trying to understand her daughter.
And then one day, Lorelai was back. Of course, only a favor in the most drastic degree could bring her there, but she was on the doorstep nevertheless. And Emily couldn't let the chance slip by. It had already been sixteen years, sixteen lonely years of dinner parties and seating charts, and while she loved Richard and the life they had, she spent nine months carrying around Lorelai, and eleven hours trying to get the stubborn little girl to finally leave her body.
Funny, Emily thinks. Perhaps that was the first rejection. The one time Lorelai didn't want to leave. And Emily had them induce labor, because it was high time this baby happened. She was two weeks late to begin with, and Emily's back was beginning to hurt. She yearned for the days spent at the tennis court, laughing with Penelope and Bunny and all her ridiculous little friends.
Some nights Emily goes to bed thinking Lorelai is right, that this is just an elaborate game they all play, these blue-blooded families with money and large houses. And Lorelai had the guts to stand up and say this wasn't for her, damn what society thought. But there is decorum and there are standards and there is what is expected of you, and Emily never shirks her duties.
She failed at being a mother. A simple, straight-forward fact. Lorelai ran because she was stifled, because she didn't feel loved, because the strip turned pink and she was supposed to have her coming out party later that week. Emily didn't know who to blame, where to turn, because this didn't happen in her world. This should never have happened. And damned if Emily didn't let Lorelai know that at every turn. If she could take back the words, if she could take back the tears and the speeches, would she? Would Emily Gilmore have the guts her daughter did, to turn her back on society and welcome her daughter and grandchild with nothing less than love?
It's ridiculous to think that she didn't love Lorelai. She only wanted what was best for her, tried to get her the best of everything because she thought she deserved it. Because she was a beautiful Gilmore girl with gorgeous dark hair. Because she could own the world if she wanted to. Richard and Emily would see to that..
But Lorelai wanted nothing of it. She climbed out her balcony window and left Yale and her future behind. Emily wonders if she regrets it, if she wishes she could go back in time and keep Rory, of course, but still graduate high school with her friends, go to Yale and get ridiculously drunk when the football team played Harvard. Or settle down with Christopher and follow in her mother's footsteps. She wonders if her daughter is happy with her life.
And then, she reflects, she meddles. Lorelai refuses to let her in, so Emily pushes her way through the door. Yes, she went to Christopher that night, and yes, she said Lorelai and Christopher belonged together. Because she'd watched her daughter get hurt time after time and she knew that Christopher loved Lorelai, loved her completely. Christopher knew how to handle dinner parties and societal engagements. Christopher was Rory's father, and that demanded a certain amount of respect. Christopher had a place in Lorelai's life whether she wanted it or not, and he would take care of her, and love her, and isn't that all a mother ever wants for her daughter, in the end?
She can't claim to understand her daughter. Why she finds out about wedding engagements from strangers, why she never meets the intended man, why Lorelai keeps her as far out of her life as possible. She can barely keep up with her in conversation, with all her references to things that only Rory understands.
They have a secret language, Rory and Lorelai, and Emily is jealous. Emily and her mother had pearls and panty-hose, high heels and a good taste in alcohol. Emily and Lorelai have nothing except arguments.
Lorelai made it clear that night, leaning over as the camera bulb flashed, whispering in her ear. Emily had no idea what she was talking about, a little giddy on champagne and Richard's hand in hers.
When it finally hits her, that Lorelai knew she had spoken with Christopher, she's listening to Richard's gentle snores. While he was living in the pool house, she bought a sound machine. Emily was never very good at being alone. Her daughter on the other hand – well, she isn't her mother's daughter. She's something different, something Emily is proud of, though she never shows it, can never show it. It would mean her whole life was exactly as Lorelai claimed. It would mean that her life was meaningless.
She can't sleep. She gets out of bed and pulls on her night robe. Down the stairs, she mixes herself a Manhattan. She goes into the kitchen, thinking she might be hungry. Pulling open the huge stainless steel fridge doors, nothing looks appealing. Emily sighs in frustration. Eva is asleep and she doesn't know how to work this all the different gadgets in this high-tech glistening steel room.
Ice cream, Emily thinks, that's what I want. She goes to the freezer and pokes around but things are labeled and there's no sign of an ice cream carton. She slams her hand down on the counter and quickly finishes her Manhattan. She'll go to the store and get some. There's sure to be a 24 hour store in Hartford somewhere, and Emily will find it, and get her ice cream. Emily always gets what she wants, in the end.
So she quietly changes into a track suit upstairs, and creeps down the hall. She goes into the garage where her car is kept, and settles down on the fine leather upholstery. She doesn't know why she is trying to be so quiet – Richard could sleep through a thunderstorm, and an earthquake, an atomic bomb – but there's something that makes her ease the car slowly out of the garage and wince at the noise the door makes as it closes. She'll have to tell Manuel about it in the morning.
Hartford is a lovely place, she thinks, driving down her street lined with mansions. She makes her way through the quiet streets of West Hartford and turns onto Farmington, thinking there must be some place open downtown.
Emily hardly ever goes downtown. She and her friends are more comfortable on the outskirts, the tree lined avenues and manicured lawns. What Lorelai would call the false reality. She still doesn't really understand what is so terrible about the way she lives her life. There are charities and auctions, friends. Sure, it must seem easy, but philanthropy is harder than it looks. And keeping up appearances . . . well, that's where Lorelai would throw her hands in the air. Lorelai cares nothing for appearances, showing up at Rory's first day at Chilton in a pink t-shirt and cowboy boots. Though she must admit, her daughter does know how to pull herself together. And Rory always looks more than presentable. Rory, her perfect grand-daughter.
Emily knows Lorelai thinks she loves Rory more, but Emily doesn't know how that's possible. She's just – Emily's mind is wandering, she's looking for a store, she has to pay attention – Rory's just achieving everything they wanted for Lorelai. But Lorelai's inn is nothing to be ashamed of, and her daughter is smart and beautiful and witty and clever. Even if Emily doesn't get most of the jokes, and even if she thinks she has a vulgar sense of taste, she knows there is something about Lorelai that most people don't have. A charismatic quality, a good head on her shoulders, a perfect smile.
She is proud of her daughter, but she is a proud woman, and she knows the two get mixed up.
"There!" Emily exclaims and pulls her car into a vacant parking lot. She climbs out of her car, slams the door and clicks it locked with her remote.
The fluorescent lights are harsh on her eyes, and it takes a moment for her to adjust. Emily doesn't remember the last time she set foot in a place like this. A place like this, how snotty I've become, Emily thinks. She straightens her shoulders and listens to the cheesy overhead music as she begins her search for the freezer aisle.
She thinks about asking the lone cashier, but decides against it, not wanting to appear so out of place. So she walks quickly, peering down each aisle, until there, near the end, she finds the freezers.
First she is faced with an assortment of frozen peas, and then ready-made dinners. Emily wrinkles her nose in disgust. There's frozen pizza – she ate that once with Rory and it was actually quite good. Emily decides to pick one up, perhaps to serve for dinner one night and freak Lorelai out. But where is the ice cream? She doesn't even really want it anymore, but she came all this way, and damned if she doesn't finish what she started.
There must be another aisle, she determines, and turns the corner, almost knocking over a cereal display. And lo and behold, the jackpot. More ice cream than Emily had ever seen before. So many different brands, so many choices! She is overwhelmed. She doesn't even know where to begin. Lorelai would know. This would take her five minutes, and Emily would be enjoying the best ice cream she'd ever tasted. Her daughter is a master at these things.
She wanders slowly down the aisle and stops when she sees a display of Ben and Jerry's. She remembers overhearing a heated debate over which flavor was better, Phish Food or Bovinity Divinity. Lorelai was holding out for the Phish Food, and Emily had remarked that was a ridiculous name for an ice cream flavor. "But it has little chocolate fish in it!" Lorelai had exclaimed. "And mine has tiny little cows, which are much cuter than fish," Rory had added.
This place has neither of the debated flavors, so Emily is left on her own. There are normal enough sounding flavors, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, even plain strawberry and vanilla. But those aren't things Lorelai would buy. No, she would pick something like . . . Chunky Monkey, because the name made her laugh. And so Emily picks up a pint, grabs her frozen pizza, and heads to the check-out aisle.
The cashier, a girl about seventeen, doesn't make eye contact. "That'll be 8.15."
"Here," Emily says, handing her a credit card.
"I'm sorry, we only accept credit cards on purchases of ten dollars or more," the girl recites in monotone as she twirls her badly dyed black hair.
"Well, that's just ridiculous. I don't have any cash on me. I only have this card."
"Then buy something else."
"I don't want anything else."
The girl just stared at her. "We're having a sale on these balloons. Three dollars."
Emily gives an exasperated sigh. "And what would I do with a balloon? What, may I ask, do I need a balloon for?"
"Then buy something else. We have a whole freakin' store full of stuff. Geez. Relax, lady."
"Fine, just give me one of those damn balloons." Emily grabs the string angrily. She signs her name and practically spits a thank you out to the sales girl.
Back in the car, the balloon bobs silently beside her. "Congratulations!" it exclaims.
Emily stares at the bag with the Chunky Monkey ice cream, and begins to cry.