So my mom was over the other day and announced, “Well, Friday is the last day for ‘All My Children.'” To which my gramma replied, “Aw, you gonna cry?”
My mom watched All My Children — hereafter referred to as “AMC” or “All My Kids” — from the beginning, as it aired around a time that she breastfed my 41-year-old sis (when she was still a baby, of course). It replaced the game show “Dream House” where contestants would win room furnishings, and sometimes an actual house, a mix of “The Price Is Right” and “Extreme Home Makeover.”
“I’d never seen a soap opera, and I wanted to watch it from the beginning to find out if everyone was sane — and then they started sleeping with each other and killing and lying? Or if they start out at different stages of nuttyhood,” my mom said.
Apparently Erica Kane — played by Susan Lucci, who finally won an Emmy in 1999 on her 19th nomination — was an evil wench right from the start. One of her first orders of business was trying to break up a young couple Phillip and Tara. (Phillip, the heartthrob of Pine Valley — later replaced by Tad — was the adopted son of Ruth and Joe Martin, which he didn’t realize at the time, of course. FYI the actress who played Ruth, Mary Fickett, died last week at the age of 83.)
While my mom was working at Public Aid, she’d watch “All My Kids”on her lunch break — in the electronics department at Montgomery Ward in downtown Chicago. “[The employees] got tired of seeing everybody standing there, so they just put in these pew-like benches and we would just sit there and eat our lunch and watch.” This was a cutting-edge show: Erica Kane was the first TV character to have an abortion, and they dealt with issues of homosexuality, spousal abuse of women, and pregnancy after 40. By the time I came around, my mom was staying at home, and her third child didn’t quell her addiction to the daytime serial.
“All My Children” came on at noon. It was my mom’s “show” and we weren’t allowed to watch anything else during that time, or bother her (though she disputes this). So I would inevitably end up watching it sometimes, during the summer or if we’d come home for lunch. And I fell in love, too, I guess. The evil twins on this show were branded on my little brain, it introduced me to insane, maybe — to characters like Natalie and her evil twin “Crazy Janet” (who threw her into a well), and vindictive Adam Chandler and his child-like other half Stuart. (And it introduced me to Kelly Ripa too — don’t forget that she got her start on this show as Hayley! And Carol Burnett played a character named Verla! Oh, I also got the autograph of Taylor Miller — aka “Nina Cortlandt” — when she was filming a movie near my childhood house in Oak Park.)
My mom, who hasn’t watched in over 10 years, said that she’s watched the show the last couple days and reported: “Tad and Dixie are getting married for like the third time, Angie got her sight back, and they brought Stuart back from the dead.” (Oh, Dixie came back from the dead too at one point — Adam had stashed her away in a mental institution.)
In the last episode that aired today, Erica — who’s married Jackson like three times already — tells Jackson that she doesn’t want to get married again, so Jackson tells her that he’s had enough (channeling Rhett Butler) and that she can go to LA by herself. Erica chases after him to get him back. But JR — the crazy drunk son of Adam and Dixie, who hates his father Adam (who is in the room) — is hiding in another room with a gun. Then JR then fires, and the scene ends on Erica reacting as the gun goes off, and then fades to black. What really happened we may never know.
“I thought JR would set off a bomb, blow everything up — bye Pine Valley!” my mom said.
Aw Pine Valley, we shall miss you. And now I will leave you with the poem that “All My Children” creator Agnes Nixon wrote that appears in the title credits’ photo album:
The Great and the Least,
The Rich and the Poor,
The Weak and the Strong,
In Sickness and in Health,
In Joy and Sorrow,
In Tragedy and Triumph,
You are ALL MY CHILDREN