Paris and Volunteering

PARIS: When you apply to an Ivy League school, you need more than good grades and test scores to get you in. Every person who applies to Harvard has a perfect GPA and great test scores. It’s the extras that put you over the top. The clubs, charities, volunteering. You know.
RORY: Oh yeah, I know.

Paris explains to Rory what she should already know – to get into a top university like Harvard, you need something to set you apart from all the other excellent candidates.

Paris has been volunteering since she was about nine, and began by handing out cookies at the local children’s hospital (possibly the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford). By the age of ten she was running a study group for teenagers, probably through Chilton. She has also been a counsellor for a children’s summer camp, organised a literacy program for seniors, worked at a suicide prevention hotline (a truly terrifying thought), and a residential centre for runaways and homeless youth.

She has also adopted dolphins (you just send money to an organisation like The Oceanic Society), taught American Sign Language (perhaps through the American School for the Deaf in Hartford), and trained guide dogs (volunteers raise puppies and give them socialisation and basic training before handing them back so they can be trained as guide dogs; Paris may have done this through Guiding Eyes in Hartford.) We know Paris likes dogs, because her dog Skippy is said to have had a litter of puppies on Lorelai’s mini-dress that she borrowed: weirdly (or perhaps lazily by the writers) her dog has the same name as Rory’s unfortunate hamster.

Paris has done an insane amount of volunteering for a 16-17 year old girl, but in fact choosing this as a good method of getting into Harvard is almost certainly wrong. Colleges don’t seem to be really be that impressed by you doing huge amounts of random volunteer work (probably because anyone with half a brain and no life can rack up hours of unpaid work fairly easily).

What they really want to see is how your extracurricular activities demonstrate the kind of person you are, and the unique skills and interests that you have. For example, Paris wants to work in medical research, so the children’s hospital was a great start, but she didn’t stick with it. It would have been better to continue volunteering with just one or two organisations, and demonstrate that she had gained a leadership role and given real help to the community – maybe even won an award of some kind. Paris’ volunteering CV looks as if she’s desperately taken any role offered (and sending money to dolphins doesn’t look impressive to anyone).

Furthermore, it depends on the university how highly they rank volunteer work when assessing applications. It doesn’t seem to be extremely important for Harvard, which makes Paris’ efforts even more pointless.

Bob Vila

RORY: Funny. I never pictured you as a Bob Vila kind of girl.
PARIS: Rebuilding Together is an extremely prestigious and respected organization. I’ve been volunteering for them for years.

Robert “Bob” Vila (born 1946) is an American home improvement television host. He was the host of This Old House, previously mentioned, from 1979 to 1989, and hosted Home Again With Bob Vila from 1990 to 2005.

Paris seems to have been volunteering for Rebuilding Together since she was at least 14, quite possibly younger.

“Two worst moves I ever made”

LORELAI: Telling her I was getting married to a wonderful guy who will love me and make me happy. That, and giving her my address when I finally moved out, two worst moves I ever made.

This statement from Lorelai shows that she never completely abandoned her parents: she gave them her address when she moved out so that they could find her if they wanted to (they must have done – they came to see she and Rory when they were living at the inn).

“Light bulb burned out”

LORELAI: “Mom, tomorrow I’m going to build a house.”
RORY: Help build a house.
LORELAI: Did you tell them that there’s a light bulb in your closet that burned out in ’97 that you still haven’t changed?

The light bulb in Rory’s closet burned out when she was twelve or thirteen, possibly of an age where Lorelai could have changed the light bulb for her (mind you, that was the year Lorelai broke her leg, so she may not have been too mobile when it happened). Or what about Luke – he did tons of work on Lorelai’s house a few episodes ago while he was avoiding Rachel, couldn’t he at least have replaced a light bulb?

Rory Shows Emily the Potting Shed

(Rory opens the door and walks in. Emily looks in from the doorway.)
RORY: I know it’s looks small, but it’s really pretty. Come on. See, we had our bed right over there, and Mom put up this really pretty curtain around the tub so that it looked like a real bathroom. And we would just sit outside at night when the Inn would have parties, and we’d just listen to music and feed the ducks and . . . (Emily walks away) Grandma? Grandma wait, what’s the matter?

This is the potting shed next to the duck pond at the Independence Inn that Lorelai and Rory lived in when they first moved to Stars Hollow, as they had no money for accommodation (like the Holy Family, there was “no room at the inn”, and they were put in an outbuilding, so Baby Rory was just like Baby Jesus).

The shed is sturdy but rustic, and is stocked with gardening tools and plants, like any potting shed: it isn’t clear if those things were there while Lorelai and Rory lived there. Their bed is no longer there (they must have shared a single bed together), but the bath has been left, including the curtain that Lorelai put around it to serve as a bathroom wall. Lorelai mentioned that it has rosebud wallpaper, but the shed is painted white inside and doesn’t look as though it’s got the kind of walls that you could easily wallpaper.

It looks impractical for bringing up a baby, and we learn later that they moved to Stars Hollow in the autumn, so it would have been very cold as well (we don’t know what they used for heating). We don’t know how long they lived in this temporary accomodation, but long enough for Rory, who was only a baby when they came to Stars Hollow, to have some memories of it, and long enough that the weather became warm enough for them to sit outside at night. I would guess at least a year, and possibly two. Who looked after baby Rory while Lorelai was working is unknown.

This is the first time that Emily has ever seen the potting shed, and she is clearly distraught to discover the conditions her daughter and granddaughter lived in. Lorelai told Sookie that her parents visited them a few times at the inn while Rory was a baby, but they never saw where they slept at night. Lorelai was probably clever at keeping them away from the shed, but their lack of curiosity is surprising. Perhaps they were scared to push it in case Lorelai ran even further away.

In this case, it is Emily who runs away, too upset to spend any more time with Rory or even say a proper goodbye to her. This incident serves as a device to keep Emily at a distance from Stars Hollow. Emily was having a good time with Rory, and was fitting in well with the townspeople, finding that she had things in common with Mrs. Kim and Michel. By showing her in the potting shed, it explains why Emily doesn’t visit Stars Hollow more often in the future.

Where they lived between the potting shed when Rory was a baby/toddler, and moving into their own house when Rory was eleven, is a complete mystery and never mentioned. Perhaps Lorelai saved up enough money to rent a cheap apartment for them, but renting would make it hard to save for a house. They could have lived in a friend’s house (with Sookie?), but if so, nobody ever refers to it.

In real life, it wouldn’t be legal for anyone to live in the potting shed under Connecticut zoning laws, but I’m not sure that would stop Lorelai anyway – rules were made for non-Gilmores!

Maine

RORY: Are these new chairs, Grandma?
EMILY: Why, yes Rory, they are … I got them from a dealer up in Maine last summer. He just finished restoring them.

Maine is the most northerly state in New England, sharing its northern border with Canada. It is well known for its many antique shops, mostly catering to summer tourists. Richard and Emily spend their summers on Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Maine, so perhaps she bought the chairs on the island itself, or from one of the many antique stores on Cape Cod.