On Friday, September 23rd, the last network airing of All My Children began at 12 Noon Central Standard Time. An hour later, it was over. The scheming, the lying, the loving, the surviving, the happy, the sad, the highs, the lows, the tragedy and the triumph.

Erica Kane, the Diva of Pine Valley, finally got her comeuppance when Jackson Montgomery finally, after years of pursuit, responded to her plea that she needed and loved him with an homage worthy of Gone With the Wind.  (“Frankly, Erica, I don’t give a damn what you need.” Aaaand exit – stage left). David Hayward, the Scourge of Pine Valley, resurrected several dozen people (at least it felt that way), including Dixie Cooney-Martin and Stuart Chandler, both done in via terrible writing by past writing regimes and approval of the Executive Producer (*coughJulieHananCarrutherscough*) and Zach Slater, half of the Zendall Supercouple both beloved and reviled across soapdom. Bianca Montgomery, the Moral Center of Pine Valley, finally, seemingly, got a happy ending. Adam and Brooke returned, as did Joe and Ruth.  And Jamie, albeit briefly. Tad and Dixie got back together, Jake and Amanda stayed together, David knocked up Cara and JR got a gun…

The show ended with a cliffhanger of sorts, as JR, mad as hell and apparently not going to take it anymore (no matter how stupid, selfish and alcohol-fueled) hid in the Chandler Mansion’s infamous tunnels and fired one single shot into the crowd of PV revelers as the screen faded to black. Who was shot? We don’t know. Why? Because the show will move on-line in January and Agnes Nixon, creator and headwriter, and Prospect Park, new owners of the venerable soap, wanted it that way.

While I didn’t agree with the ending, I understand why they did it. I’m just sad that such a time-honored icon went out with more of a whimper than a bang (no pun intended).  I understand that the cliffhanger aspect will hopefully keep people guessing until the show re-appears, it also could have the opposite effect in that as time passes, it’s possible no one will care what happened to whom by the time January rolls around. I think a finale tied up in a nice, neat bow would have worked just as well. Because while the cliffhanger keeps people guessing, the time that passes between now and January, in real time, would also allow the characters’ feelings to change, lives to begin and end and the world to continue turning (with apologies to another great, yet canceled, show). The show could then pick up from there, re-booting with an explanation of who and why without having to deal with death and destruction from the outset.

But that is neither here nor there.

What IS here and there is that this venerable show was removed from our airwaves after 41 years. Saying good-bye to such a dear friend has been hard. For every Daytime Television Executive intent on killing daytime serials one long-running, scripted show at a time for cheap, boring, horrible “reality television”, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of long-time viewers who have incredible memories to share about their “stories”.  Women who grew up watching with their mothers, grandmothers, friends, family. Men and women who remember scheduling college classes around their favorites. An entire generation of teens struggling with their sexuality…

All My Children wasn’t just entertainment. It told the story of us, our neighbors, our families, our friends. It was timely and relevant. It told the story of legalized abortion (Erica had one in 1973, the first legal one on daytime television following the passage of Roe v. Wade- ridiculously undone in 2005), opposition to the Vietnam War (for which the late Mary Fickett won Daytime’s first Emmy Award), teen homosexuality (delicately and beautifully written by show creator Agnes Nixon and portrayed by Eden Riegel) and the stigma of Aids (heartbreakingly performed by David Canary and Ellen Wheeler). The show handled both drama and comedy, many times excelling at the latter at the expense of the former. It taught tolerance, respect and love.  It bridged generations and taught us all a few lessons we sorely needed to learn.

For me, All My Children was a lifetime friend. I began watching during the scorching hot summers of my youth, hiding in the air conditioning during the heart of the day and losing myself in Pine Valley, before following that up with the rest of the ABC Daytime line-up.  My senior year of high school, my schedule allowed me to be home by 11:30 where I would watch the shows before returning to school at 3:30 for basketball practice. I watched during my lunch hour all through college and as often as I could when I joined the workforce in a time before DVR’s- or even VCR’s. I grew up with Jenny and Greg, Angie and Jesse, Liza, Amanda and the entire teen set from the early 80’s. I loved the Cliff and Nina love story, the hilarity of Erica, Janet, Skye and Marian trying to hide the supposedly dead body of Dr. Jonathan Kinder and the incredibly told story of Stuart and Cindy.

I watched Tad and Dixie’s relationship evolve into one of the most enduring on Daytime television, persevering through 2 deaths (both Dixie’s) only to be reunited in the end, as it should be. I watched almost all of Erica’s marriages begin… and end.

I made it through chemotherapy sessions in the summer of 2005 with the help of Kendall and Greenlee (Alicia Minshew and Rebecca Budig), affectionately known as Kenlee, watching them work their way through hatred and friendship, humor and tears, and equally tormenting Erica Kane in the process.

I cheered when couples I loved finally got together, I railed when poor storytelling made my favorite characters seem so foreign to me. I wrote the press, I wrote the show, I wrote the actors. I’ve watched through good times and some really bad clunker stories. I admit to walking away because of the reign of horror we were subjected to by one Charles Pratt and his offensive, insipid, insulting and ridiculous vision for the show. I came back because, like a long-lost friend, I missed it so much.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many stars of the show, Alicia Minshew, Thorsten Kaye, the irrepressible Michael E. Knight.  Michael even gave me 20 Disney bucks when he heard we had arrived at the park at 3am so I could grab some breakfast when I was done. I used the money to buy a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, instead…

I met some the of the best friends I’ve ever had at a Message Board dedicated to the pairing of Bianca and Maggie (the Supercouple known as BAM – portrayed by Eden and Elizabeth Hendrickson).  They were there for me as I battled cancer and hugged me tightly whenever we got together.

I’ve been honored to find myself one of the founding members of Eden Riegel’s Official Fan Club (AbsoluteEden.com) and have had the opportunity to know Eden and her husband, Andrew Miller, as well as her mother, Lenore.

I watched the final week of All My Children alternating between laughter and tears, finally coming to that realization that, come Monday at noon, there would be no need to make sure my television was on and tuned to ABC. I thought of the friends I made way back in the late 70’s during those hot summer days, who came into my house every day to entertain me, the ones who have long since passed and those we have recently mourned. I admittedly wept when thinking of those who I may never see again as they have been to me for 30+ years.

I sighed when I dried my tears and prepared myself to do this again in a few months when we say good-bye to another life-long friend.

And I smiled when I remembered what All My Children has meant to me for more than half my life.

Good bye, my dear, dear friend. I thank you for all that you have given me.

May we meet again soon.

This past week on GL, confessions of love caused seismic shifts in the lives of our heroines, Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera, and to a lesser extent, Frank Cooper, who is supposedly a detective with the Springfield Police Department. I highly suggest someone check that man’s credentials….

Crystal Chappell got the agony train rolling as she watched Natalia and Frank move up their wedding with the return of Nat’s son Rafe, from prison. The sheer devastation in Olivia’s eyes whenever Frank touched Natalia (which was waaaaay too often) was gut-wrenching. And it was echoed in Nat’s eyes when she practically pleaded with her best friend non-verbally to stop this farce before it went too far.

In classic soap story-telling; however, the wedding must go on.

Olivia found herself at Gus’ graveside, pouring her heart out to him, teasingly blaming him for the feeling she felt for Natalia, wondering if they didn’t come from the heart now beating in her chest, which once beat in Gus’ and was already filled with Natalia. When she broke down in sobs and wept in despair “So you see, Gus, I am trying to believe in something bigger. In a love that would have me walk away from the one person that I would give anything to keep” you felt that heart shatter and spill out onto the grass, and you were right there with her.

Natalia arrives just then, seeking out Gus as well, and wants to know why Olivia’s crying.  Olivia, in her newly discovered selflessness, attempts to ignore the question repeatedly while working to control her emotions until Natalia badgers her into shouting the truth, an emotional explosion of words that stopped Natalia in her tracks and did the same to viewers. Olivia, shocked at her outburst, covers her mouth, almost as if she could somehow have kept the words from passing her lips. She was emotionally spent, though, and in a whisper that was just as powerful as her outburst moments before states, “I’m in love with you.”

She then took Natalia’s hands in hers and explained exactly why she wanted Nat to marry Frank, however wrong-headed they actually were. Natalia, stepping up big time, countered all of Olivia’s excuses, but Ms. Spencer would hear none of it. She didn’t want Natalia to end up hating her, and she knew that’s what would happen. So she hustled Nat into the church and, despite the very audible sounds of hearts breaking, and anvils crashing all over the chapel, urged things on.

So the wedding began, and thanks to Mayor Doris Wolfe, called upon to perform the ceremony by Detective Frank, became nothing short of high comedy. She gave everyone, including the gaggle of senior citizens in attendance, who had obviously been hi-jacked on the way to the Early Bird Special over at Company, the chance to object. The pointed look she gave Olivia actually made Liv blurt out an uncontrollable “NO!” which she then covered up as a “No one objects” moment, but it was obvious to anyone with eyes and an actual brain in their head that what followed the initial objection was forced and less than truthful.

Of course, that didn’t stop Doris. She then took a phone call (her phone was on silent, yet she felt it ring… she’s a very good politician), stepping away to talk to the City Council for some made up reason. Olivia knew better, followed and insisted that Doris finish the ceremony. Doris urges Olivia to take Natalia aside and tell her everything before she walks out of the church and Olivia’s life forever. They turn and see Nat standing only a few feet away watching them closely. Uh-oh…

With this latest interruption, Nat goes to light a candle (she lights 2, one for herself and one for…?) when Frank shows up (okay, at least on this his detective skills are top-notch, he always seems to know exactly where Nat is) and she explains she’s saying one of her favorite prayers from the Book of Ruth. Frank thinks that’s nice, now, shouldn’t they go get Doris and finish this? Nat looks mildly terrified at the thought and suggests they give Doris more time. (Hello, who ordered the Acme Warehouse Anvil?)

Doris, in the meanwhile, is still trying to get Olivia to stop the wedding. Finally, Olivia tells Doris that she wants this for Natalia, knowing Nat’s faith, Frank can give her everything that Olivia can’t.

This is the new Olivia, one who thinks of others first, before her own hopes and dreams. An unselfish Olivia who loves Natalia enough to not only let her go, but stand at her side while it happens.

The wedding continues and Frank delivers his vows like a champ. Well, he’s marrying Nat, so of course he does… Now it’s Natalia’s turn. Halfway through the vows, she locks up like a computer running Windows Vista, her voice stammering and stuttering as she realizes she can’t go through with it. Then in a stunning impression of Julia Roberts, she makes like a Runaway Bride, crying out her apologies to Frank as she bolts for the door.

Stunned silence is left in her wake.

Olivia tells Frank she’ll go find her. Frank looks like he just took a Louisville Slugger to the back of the head. Guests wonder what the heck just happened. The Seniors in the back row wonder when the Bingo they were promised will finally start…

So we’ve averted the Wedding of Doom. *whew* And it was Natalia who brought it to a merciful, yet painful end. *double whew*

Out in a sudden blizzard, which had managed to dump several feet of snow on the ground when just an hour or so before it seemed the Spring was on its way (Olivia was kneeling at Gus’ grave on grass that was starting to turn green and it was obvious that, while the air was chilly, it wasn’t bitter cold), Olivia finds Natalia at the gazebo. This gazebo has seen a lot of action in recent months, but nothing like this. Natalia tells Olivia that she couldn’t do it.

Now it was Jessica Leccia’s turn to bring down the house. Her eyes swimming with tears, she tries to explain how she couldn’t stand in that church, under that huge cross, and lie to everyone by marrying a man she didn’t love. This time, Olivia pushes and goads Natalia until Nat has had enough and explodes “I don’t love him, I love you!”

She tells Olivia that she and Emma mean everything to her. THEY are her family. (SCORE!)

Olivia did give us the line of the day when she convinced Natalia she couldn’t go tell Frank anything:

Natalia: How could he possibly understand? I should call him or something. I should just call him and…

Olivia: And tell him what, that you have an unusual interest in your maid of honor?

Olivia Spencer, still making jokes while her heart breaks…

Unfortunately, so many missteps are made, too much selflessness and the two of them hearing each other talk but neither really listening to what was being said. And then Frank, who must be part bloodhound, came running up, thinking maybe they could head back to the church and finish out the ceremony. Natalia couldn’t get the words out as to why she ran, so Liv jumped in, once again, and told Frank Nat wasn’t over Gus yet, that’s why she bolted (Frank would absolutely flip to know that not only is she over Gus, she’s in love with Liv). Frank, is his utter obtuseness, buys this story and tells Natalia he’s willing to wait for her.

Get comfortable, pal.

The final scene between Olivia and Natalia ripped out two hearts and left them lying on the floor of that gazebo, slowly beating their last:

Natalia: If I love Frank, how am I still able to lie to him like that?

Olivia: You didn’t lie to him. You just didn’t tell him the whole truth.

Natalia: I didn’t know how.

Olivia: What I said about Gus, I said because I knew that you would rather die than to have people know your true feelings. Between us it’s one thing, but to own up to it in the real world…

Natalia: Own up, to what? What, what is it that we’re feeling?

Olivia: Whatever it is, I know that you’re ashamed of it. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been doing this dance for so long. And that’s the reason why we can’t do anything about this.

Natalia: So what happens? What happens to us?

Olivia: There is no us. You love me, but you’re going to hate me one day for this. I can’t live with that. I can’t.

She then walks away from Natalia with those words, both hearts shattered almost beyond repair. GUH! Where on earth do they go from here?

This was a tour de force from everyone who played a part in these scenes, from Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia to Frank Dicopolous (still waiting, Frank, on when you promised we would love Frank C by the end of all this… waiting…), Orlagh Cassidy, Justin Deas, the irrepressible Jacqueline Tsirkin, to Ellen Wheeler and Jill Lorie Hurst, whose brainchild this is.

The week of April 13th should be remembered for the week that Guiding Light left all other soaps in its wake.

If Natalia’s admission of love to Olivia in the gazebo followed by her jumbled emotional confusion didn’t have you alternately cheering with joy and groaning in despair, you don’t have a heart.

If Olivia’s absolutely wrenching confession, her emotional outburst declaring exactly what she’s feeling, didn’t kill you… You’re already dead.

Special thanks to YouTube member Yodaluver28 for the clips pulled from their YouTube page.