This Is Us

A giant selfie that makes me like myself a little bit more

It was an auspicious start to the new year.

At a small gathering where facial care products were being promoted and, like a biblical miracle, my wine glass stayed full, I won a drawing. I never win drawings, contests, or competitions. Even when there’s a giveaway, I seem to step up to claim my free sample just as the last one has been handed out.

Then, I heard my number called out. (I can’t reveal it because it is now my lucky number, one I will use in all passwords and contests going forward.) Granted, only four numbers were in the hat, but I was still shocked, if not momentarily giddy. Who me?

My prize was a selfie light. A few of you know that I have no talent for taking selfies, largely due to a complete lack of interest or practice. The very few times I’ve attempted a selfie, I captured all of the forehead and not much else, or got to the pore level of my face. Ew. Guaranteed, my selfies will flatten your face.

The second auspicious event of 2018 was attending a Super Bowl party. Well, actually, it was a game night with girlfriends with the “big” game decidedly in the background. (We even discussed whether to turn on the TV.) Too busy talking and eating and talking, we never did play any games. When I left the party around 9 p.m., I had no idea what the score was.

But I did remember what one of the women said. “You’ve got to see This Is Us.’ ”

I had not turned my TV on for six weeks. January and much of February I protested winter evenings in my own way—recovering from bronchitis, reading, and doing jigsaw puzzles while listening to podcasts.

I take recommendations from girlfriends seriously. After some false tech starts, I signed up for Hulu so I could watch a series that began in 2016 and was already well into Season 2. I had a lot of catching up to do.

I love this show.

Like my selfies, it zooms in on the lives of triplets and their parents. “This Is Us” is an intimate family drama that doesn’t need violence, sex, or profanity to be good. Better than good. The close-ups allow you to get to know the characters well. At pore level. You see them at their best and worst, doubting and confident, triumphant and broken. And everything in between. Their longings, loves, addictions, disappointments, and joys. Incidentally, the triplets are conceived the night of Super Bowl XIV.

The show portrays the human condition in all its complexities. The characters—Jack and Rebecca, Kevin, Kate, and Randall—are rendered so authentically that it’s nearly impossible not to take the emotional ride with them. As Dan Fogelman, the creator and executive producer said, “the show makes you cry but also makes you feel good.”

Unlike the current environment, defined by a 24-hour news cycle, the series plays out in a world where everything else is mere backdrop. The funky clothes and classic cars tell us we’re in the seventies. A reference to “Hamilton” places the scene in the present. We learn, briefly, that Jack is a Vietnam vet. Otherwise, each episode is about us, the collective, flawed, resilient face of humanity. One reviewer described the show as “a meditation on the true and expansive meaning of Family.”

In every episode, the characters face the full range of experience, sometimes bravely, sometimes reluctantly, and sometimes not at all. This is us. When I’m done watching for the evening, I feel the kind of peace that follows recognition, connection, and acceptance. I come away liking myself a little bit more.

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