Once we were settled in, we learned the rules: no phones or cameras, no eating in the seats, no drinking, no gum. Of course the rules did not really apply to us, because we were not on the floor, where 2000 guests had actual connections to the show and its producers. We were there as audience, not guests. Still, it was a thrill.
I saw many iconic people. You have seen the names- Michael Jordan, Aretha, Madonna, Gayle King, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keyes, Maya Angelou, Dakota Fanning, Kristin Chenowith, Will Smith and Jada P Smith, Josh Groban, Barry Manilow, The Cruises, Usher, Diane Sawyer, Jamie Fox, Tom Hanks, Steadman, and Maria Shriver. Yikes! A who's who.
Most of us were not there for the Hollywood moments. We were there because Oprah has been a constant in our lives. I realize that sounds dumb, but there it is.
"At home" can be a lonely place. It was for me when I moved to Chicago, leaving my family and my job. Soon I shed dreams of practicing law to be a full time Mom. At the end of the day, the accomplishments seemed pale and the mess very vibrant. The question "what do you do?" chipped away at my sense of self if I went out with Steve. Preschool carpool drop off lines are crummy places to make friends. Oprah was waiting at home for me. I could take an hour to read the paper, laugh with her, and feel connected to something that was multi-syllabic. That is why I love Oprah.
If it was lonely for me, I can only imagine how "at home" feels for the abused women and children, trapped in shame and pain. Oprah reached out to them, and lifted them from their despair. That is why I love Oprah.
She shared stories of loss and triumph, plucked from very real lives. She inspired, cajoled, transformed and enriched her viewers. She gave them reading homework; they bought millions of books. More importantly, they read them, discussed them and grew from the challenge. As a former English teacher, that is also why I love Oprah.
She kept her "girls" through a parabola of weight ranges, and she shared her bra secrets. She has allowed herself to be filmed without a stitch of makeup, and laughed at herself. She loved giving gifts, surprising her audiences and guests, She never patronized her viewers. She elevated her show to highlight her passions and value system. We never had to suffer through "baby daddy" reveals, or shreaking rage. Instead, she hammered into her audience that they should dwell in possibilities, but insure those with a plan and hard work. She invested in education with profound enthusiasm, building schools to liberate African girls. She endowed Morehouse College. Why? She said if she changed one Black man's life, he would carry his family, and their future to better places. She dreamed it, then she did it. For that, I love Oprah.
I like that she has favorite things. Sometimes it is toffee, sometimes it is a car. She is equally rhapsodic about them. Then, a few times a year, she tries to share. That is dear, but it is also my only real sore spot with Opie. Women should not scream and jump around like idiots when they receive a box of toffee. A car- ok.
When we found the seats, there was a box of Kleenex. (sponsor) I was skeptical that the evening would make me cry. Yet, it did- not because she will no longer be a part of the landscape here. There will be a void in the lives of people who need a little Oprah. The film clips that were played during the tech breaks featured many, many people who were brought back to a meaningful life through Oprah. She was there for the lonely ones, and the damaged ones, and the little ones who came home to an empty house. We do not want Maury or Judge Judy to take over this responsibility. They do not have the heart or the soul. We do not want Access Hollywood or Teen Moms to absorb the hours. Like Joni Mitchell says "don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?" The sad thing is that there will never be another Oprah, amassing enough power to do things her way, taking the high road. She owned her hour, and it would be her way- take it or leave it. It seems to have been a win-win.
These days, I am not lonely. My kids are grown, my grandson is arriving next month, I am armed with friends. My sister lives here- we went to say adios to Oprah together. I have my wings.
She will be flitting to her OWN network, not be tethered to the daily rat race. She will have more time to spend with her friends and her passions. I think she is a bit of a workaholic, so I doubt if she will ever really chill. Still, her days will be more free form. And the climate she lives in will improve markedly. I have some issues of abandonment, but I am working through them.
I will truly miss her. She reinforced that it is essential to be kind, and to help one another. In a primal way, she functioned as a social filter. You could ask a group of women if they had seen Oprah, and their responses functioned as a "pre-test" of compatibility. I found a great clump of friends by dissecting the Oprah Winfrey Show. Now we share our secrets, road trips, bra tips, jeans recommendations, hair dye recommendations, horror stories and every messy bit of life. Miss Oprah outpaced us in sophistication, income, profile and power, but she is still one of us. We all wear Spanx for special occasions.
In fact, we are hitting up The Bridesmaids with a birthday afterglow at a dive bar on Friday evening, and she would fit right in. No Spanx required. We are going to have a tiara and cake. Come on, Oprah! Join us! We'll be glad to join you in Hawaii! No?
Oprah spanned a very significant era for us: marriage/ jobs/kids/new jobs/
grandkids/deaths/illnesses/retirement. Our weight ricocheted like hers, while our dreams and goals expanded and constricted. She was a constant, even when she was a rerun. We absorbed her notion that we are stronger together than we are as one. Mostly, Oprah assured us that no one is alone. That is a message we embrace and thank Oprah for. And of course, we love her.