Final Beginnings – How I Met Your Mother and My Life
by Debra H. Goldstein
Last night, in the final minute of its eighth season, How I Met Your Mother’s audience met the mother. Ted, the main character, didn’t meet her, but in that moment, we knew that the stage was set for an entirely new ninth season for all of the characters — a season of exploration, change, happenstance, dismay and growth. In fact, the showrunners have said that when the show goes into syndication, one will always be able to immediately distinguish season one to eight reruns from ninth season episodes.
As a child of the television era (Little Ricky was born a few months before me), I often associate historical events or moments in my life with things I saw on television. I remember being ten and seeing the replay of John F. Kennedy’s assassination on television in my classroom and then going to chair a club meeting of a club that never met again because our associated memories of that day were too sad; I recall being involved in the writing and production of my first play in a children’s theater group when we stopped rehearsing long enough to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon; I understood how ravaging AIDS was going to be when I saw the physical contrast in the Rock Hudson who appeared in his last television appearance with Doris Day from the finely chiseled features that caught my eye in McMillan and Wife and reruns of one of my all time favorite movies, Giant.
Ted and his HIMYM friends are all entering new phases in their lives, as am I. Effective June 1, 2013, I will step down from the bench after twenty-three years. I will be wrapping up a legal career that has spanned more than thirty-five years. When I announced six months ago the date I would no longer schedule hearings so I could bring proper closure to my time on the bench, my colleagues were in shock. One doesn’t give up a lifetime position at my age. They pointed out that our last judges to retire were 88, 86 and 79. I countered with two facts – that because I was appointed when I was more than twenty years under the average age, I already have served more time on the bench than all but one of them and that if I am lucky, I can have a second career that rivals the longevity of my first.
In some ways, my legal career can be compared to the twists and turns of experiences I initially viewed on television. Music evolved for me from when I was first permitted by my parents to watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand to when The Beatles made their American appearance on Ed Sullivan. My love for tight comical writing and timing can be traced to the impact shows featuring Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Saturday Night Live and most recently the casts of The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother have had on me. The remembrance of current events through stand-alone scripts or as worked into period pieces like MadMen have made me think of times and events I long thought forgotten.
I have been lucky as a lawyer to have experienced many firsts – coming through school at a time when there were few women, opting to practice international tax law and then labor law when those were not areas women went into (the interviews for those jobs are the stuff for another blog), being the first woman in the Birmingham, Alabama Office of the Solicitor for the Department of Labor, trying an equal pay case of first impression, Marshall vs. Georgia Southwestern, when I was twenty-five, receiving a merit appointment as a federal Administrative Law Judge when I was thirty-six and being sworn in at thirty-seven when the average age was fifty-eight (that was the year, when through the merit appointment system the presence of women in the 1400+ federal Administrative Law Judges was doubled from the thirteen originally grandmothered in when their jobs were elevated to the ALJ level). On a personal note, I am lucky to have grown up in a home that fell somewhere between Leave it to Beaver, Modern Family, The Middle, Family, Dick Van Dyke, The Cosby Show and The Jetsons. After almost thirty years as a wife, step-mother, mother of twins and associated community volunteer, Girl Scout leader, PTA and soccer mom, I leave it to my family to decide which TV shows each felt they lived in with me.
Like Ted, the coming season of my life will introduce me to new people and challenges. My goal is to give myself the opportunity to return to my first love fulltime. Whether a blog, the new book I just finished and am now shopping, short stories or essays, I am permitting myself to take the professional plunge as a writer. Spending time with friends and family, exercising, and doing a few crazy things like taking a quilting class also are on my bucket list. We know from the prologue of HIMYM shows, that Ted meets the right woman, falls in love, marries, and has two children – the success he dreamed of from the pilot episode. I don’t know if my show will have the same happy ending, but tune in and we’ll watch it together.