John Carter

Last night was the final episode of ER.  Can you believe this show ran for 15 years?  Hmmm.  In 1994 my stomach was completely flat and Dave and I did what newlyweds do every night:  We ate dinner in front of the television and spent most evenings arguing whether Billy should leave Allison to be with Amanda.  But E.R. was different because of its grittiness and the fact that it was “so much more real” than Melrose Place. 

(Having been to the actual ER several times since 1994, I can tell you that there is nothing “real” about the show.  The real E.R. is an existential wasteland where time lapse photography is required to detect movement.  There is no spurting blood, no running or yelling, and frankly very little on the public displays of emotion front.  And the medical staff is just not that good looking, which is fortunate because I would never trust a doctor that looks like a supermodel.  The geekier, the better.)  

I could spend all day arguing the merits of the television drama as an art form, but one can’t escape the fact that TV shapes us in ways we don’t even realize.  And ER shaped my life in two small, but significant ways.

First, “my Noah” would not exist had it not been for the character Dr. John Carter played by Noah Wyle.  I loved Dr. Carter and all of his insecurities as he was learning the ropes.  The fact that the hunky/geeky actor who portrayed him had this wise biblical name made me weak in the knees.   It was a name I never would have considered had it not popped up every Thursday evening during the opening credits. And had Dr. Carter been an arrogant S.O.B?  Fuggedaboutit!  Noah would have been “Evan” or “Shane.”   Celebrity inspiration naming may in fact run in my family.  Rumor has it that my brother’s name was inspired by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.  I hope this propensity skips a generation.  Otherwise I might end up with a grandchild named Miley. 

But considerably more meaningful is the reason why I stopped watching ER.  It was 1998 and I was a brand new Mommy, still watching a fair amount of TV.  But suddenly I could no longer tolerate the suffering on the show.  A year prior I was all about the tragedy and pain.  But the weight of being responsible for my own child made that hurt untenable.  It didn’t matter that George Clooney was the pediatrician on staff.  I simply couldn’t watch, especially if a child was injured.  Because, no matter what mantra I repeated to myself, I would picture my child, husband or self enduring the same fate. It was the first evidence of a vulnerability that has and never will leave me and I remember it distinctly.

There were many times in that first year where I questioned my maternal instincts because I didn’t feel gushy enough about the experience.  But the moment I couldn’t stomach ER I knew I had arrived and passed through the doorway into motherhood.  (But, for the record, I still tuned in for the girl fights at Melrose regularly.)

So goodbye, ER.  I got hooked on you because of one Noah, and had to walk away because of another.  But both will remain in my heart indefinitely.

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