Ten Thousand Days


Cindy Rae

 

 

{ A September 25th Anniversary Essay }

 

 

 

 

 

The title screen, September 25th, 1987 

 

*

 

 

 

 

More than ten thousand days have passed.

 

Ten thousand.

Ten thousand days since “Once upon a time… In the city of New York” appeared in bare tree branches, as a camera panned slowly down.

Ten thousand days since the words “Beauty and the Beast” first scrolled across your TV screen, over the shot of a busy New York street.

Catherine was about to get out of a yellow taxi.

Ten thousand days ago.  More than.

Hold that number in your head, for a bit.

Hold it, and think about what it means.

You gave your life to those days.  (Or at least, you gave a very big chunk of it.)  We all did.  And we all gave the same amount of time.  Time is a great equalizer, that way.

But anniversaries aren't about that.  They aren't about more than ten thousand days.

They're about just one.

September 25th, 1987.

The thing about the days that change your life (forever), is that they often begin so very much like any other day.  They begin like a day that isn't going to change your life.  (Forever, or otherwise.)

They begin like a day that's just going to be a day.  A nice day, perhaps, and maybe even a very nice one (you’re going to get to watch a new show, after all), but not a “life-changing day.”

Just a day.

We've all had those.

And we've forgotten most of them.  (For all of those ten thousand days, how many of them do we really, really remember?)

The day we meet our loves, (whatever and whoever those might be), there often isn't that much, in the way of portents.  There are no signs inscribed in the sky, no burning bushes, no overriding instinct to "go there," and "meet that man," or "talk to that woman, not the other one," or "watch that show, no matter what else you do, that night."

There’s an urge to watch the show, certainly.  There’s often an urge to do that, when the new lineup of shows airs.

But to mean so much, and for so long?

No.  I don’t think so.  Most of us had no idea.

Life is kind of funny that way, isn't it?

You start out, and it’s just a day.  You get up.  You get coffee, or if you're lucky, breakfast.  You dress and you brush your teeth, and you grab whatever it is you need, to do those things you always do.  You get your car keys or your purse, your book bag or your day planner or your shopping list, and out you go, casting yourself into the world like so much human flotsam.

You know there's a new show coming on, but to be fair, you've known that before, on other days.  Days you forgot about, as time went on.

So, you go through your day.  You go to your job, or school, or tend your family, or stop for gas, or groceries, or you do all of those things, in some kind of order, some kind of measure.  It’s a plain, ordinary day.

And probably because you’ve done all those things, before, you know you'll do them all, again.

But now and then, (and sometimes with only the barest whisper of a warning), something quite amazing happens to you.  Something that you later understand was important, for you.

Something that happens on that day changes you.  It just does.

You have a special day.  And not just a special day. A one-in-ten-thousand day.

And from that special day, you proceed to build a special life.  Or at least, a “more special” one.  Because there is now something almost irreplaceably lovely added to your days (all of those), and to your entire internal landscape.  Something in you changed.  Something in you grew.  You’re just a little better than you were.  You have more hope.  You have more strength.

Isn't that quite amazing?

On that September 25th (which on the show was an April 12th), I don't think Vincent knew he was going to have a day that changed his life, forever.

I don't think any of the rest of us did, either.

I know I didn’t.

We were so much younger, then.

Twenty-nine years younger, to be exact.

365 x 29 = 10,585 days, with a few added on for leap year. (About a week's worth, give or take.)

And whatever it was life did to us (or whatever we did to it), in the intervening years since the pilot, we know that we let many, many other television  shows go by, yet held fast to this one.

That has to be a testament to... well, something.

Something wonderful, for all of us, I hope. 

This little show, this small piece of fantasy wrapped inside a big piece of inspiration, it reached someplace inside of each of us.  Someplace precious.  There’s no sense pretending that it didn't.

Else, why hold fast to it?  Why revisit it for nuance, and meaning, and depth?  Why praise it, critique it, and want to expand on it, and wish (futilely) that it had lasted at least one or two seasons more?

And when it didn’t do that, why decide to go create more of it, anyway, for ourselves?  Why write about it, draw for it, sing for it, paint for it, re-watch it, discuss it, and explore it, again and again?  (And again.  Ten thousand days.)

Because we could, yes?

Just why it “sang” to us all is probably as individual an answer as the number of people reading this.  Many of us may have similar reasons, but it’s likely we don't have identical ones.

Like Vincent, Catherine, Father and Mouse, we're rather unique individuals, after all. (And yes, that thought does make me smile.)

I may not have loved everything about this odd little show.  But it was certain that I loved something about it.  Even if, for a time, that "something" seemed almost indefinable, to me.

Perhaps that was the show's power.  Perhaps that was its strength.  It had a constant, yet almost indefinable message about love.  About the different ways you could express that, and the nobility with which you could embrace it.  About how complex it could be, while it was also quite simple.  About what it sometimes cost, and what it so often gave, in return.

We watched.  We listened.  We learned.  And we all fell in love a little more, each week.

And the show went on.

And for many of us, Friday night became "the” night.  The night we were not to be disturbed.  The night we had all but immutable plans. The night where we knew what we were going to be doing, between 8:00 and 9:00, every chance we got.  We were watching this.  And continuing to fall in love with it, a little more.

A real world that seemed utterly consumed with petty pursuits and designer jeans stopped intruding, for an hour, while a deeper, better world slowly took its place, in our collective awareness.

Here was a hero we could root for, and a story we longed to see unfold.

Did you have a broken heart, at some point in your life?

Not to worry.  For here was a place that showed you that a heart could mend, and be that much stronger, for the mending.  Here was room for nobility in the simplest of actions, and a rough sanctuary, in the humblest of places.

“Offer help, when you can.  Accept help, when it's offered to you.”

There are worse rules to live by.

Love fearlessly, and selflessly, and find your strength(s) as you help others find theirs.

There are worse notions to hear, and to understand.

Live with dignity, compassion, depth, and grace.  Uphold justice.  Protect the young, the old, the weak, and the different.

And the beauty of it was, those messages weren't some kind of "hit or miss” thing, scattered just "here" and "there" among a few random episodes, while the show itself was about something else, entirely.

Those messages were the show.  They were there, each episode, from the voice-over in the opening credits to the close.

If anyone asks me now, "Why this show?"  Why Beauty and the Beast rather than anything else?  (Or for that matter, everything else?)

I’d tell them that I’ve felt strongly about other shows, too.  Because I have.

But this one?  Well…  It is different.

I wish I had a simpler answer for “Why this one?”  than "Because it was about Everything.  And Everything is Everything."

But I probably don't.

It didn't surprise me that it was the best new show on, that season.  (A lot of the reviews and advance press insisted that it was just that.)

It just surprises me that it may have been the best show I ever followed, and that twenty nine years later, I still think about it, still "follow it," and I still remember.

And one of the things I remember is the thing that takes me most by surprise.

I didn't know that something so special was going to come into my life on September 25th, 1987.  That it was going to add to that life, so significantly, so deeply, and for so long.  I didn’t know that I was going to leave it, then find it again.  I didn't know it was going to touch my heart, and stay.  I just didn't.

Did you?  Did any of us have an inkling, about what this was going to mean to all of us, to become for us?

After all, it was just another September, back then.  It was just that another new show was coming on.  It was the season for those.  No surprise, there.

Was Beauty and the Beast getting a lot of intriguing advance press?  Sure, but it was a new show in The Fall Lineup.  Some new show was always getting that.  (Just like a show did the year before, and the year after.)

You know network TV.  It always hypes itself.

And even as I say that... Was there ever a show that was less about hype, than this one?

In TV Land, sex sold, and women were prized for their jiggle and their wiggle.  Shows like Dallas and Dynasty were still on.  (Raise your hand if you remember that on the opening credits for Miami Vice, a woman’s bikini-clad top shakes by, -you don’t even see her whole face- as somebody plays what sounds like electronic bongos.  Classy.)

By contrast, Linda Hamilton steps out onto a balcony in a beautiful evening gown, looking sophisticated, coolly elegant, and lovely.  Ron Perlman's face isn't even shown.  There are piles of books, and a voice-over extolling virtues like "beauty, warmth, and courage."  Things like "friendship" and "love" and "being with me in spirit."

With all that as a given, I suppose I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did.

In September, there are always new shows to watch.  New shows to give a try, for a week or two.  Sometimes more.

But this one, you didn't just watch it.  You felt it.

And if you felt your heart move as you watched it, you "got it."  And once you did that, it seemed impossible to look away.

It still is, for me.  And I suspect it still is, for you.

But I didn't know that, then, on that long ago Friday.  I didn't know, when I woke up on that September morning, that something truly marvelous was about to happen for me, and for all of us.  I just didn't.

I didn't know that it was the first day of more than ten thousand days.

I hope you have many more days.  Days where something both great and good happens to you.  For you.

And I hope that we have at least ten thousand more, with this incredible series, which was both great and good.

Is that a silly wish, all things considered?

If it is, I think that's all right.  I think Vincent would approve.

After all, he seemed to have a soft spot for those days that change your life, forever.

Even if he didn’t see them coming, either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No matter where you find yourself ten thousand days from now, I wish you love.

~ Cindy

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

Illustrations supplied by the author


 

 

 

 

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