clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

C. Jane Kendrick: The day Oprah called me

FILE - In this May 17, 2011 file photo, Oprah Winfrey acknowledges fans during a star-studded double-taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," in Chicago.
FILE - In this May 17, 2011 file photo, Oprah Winfrey acknowledges fans during a star-studded double-taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," in Chicago.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, file

We recently experienced the final week of the "Oprah Winfrey Show."

For the past month, my DVR has been stuffed with Oprah's last shows, and every few days I worked into my schedule a little time to sort through them all. I relished, as always, her last interview with Chris Rock. I skipped all the makeover and memory shows with her producers. I couldn't resist Tom Hank's last laughs on her stage — he was incredibly funny — even while sharing time with Julia Roberts. I look forward to meeting Ralph Lauren — an interview that ran last week and still sits patiently for me in my DVR library.

I've enjoyed watching and reading the collective tributes to Oprah and her producers for all they have done and tried to do. Not always a faithful follower of the show, there have been periods in my life where I've needed her diversion.

I remember being a daily watcher when I was doing battle with infertility. It was at a time when she was exploring the strength of the soul. One day she asked her viewers to imagine having what they really wanted. I dutifully closed my eyes and pictured a baby wrapped into the small of my neck. In that moment, I was reassured that a baby would be mine. After this experience, I stopped watching for a while; I no longer needed that particular pastime.

I suppose that is what we do as creators — we think, we work, we create for those who need us. Sometimes they're a needy crowd wanting and demanding. Sometimes they don't crave our points of view, our productions or our offered diversions. But like Oprah has done, we carry on, being there for 25 years if asked and giving the best possible outcome for the most in need.

In an especially busy period in my life a couple years ago, my phone rang almost constantly. My sister had been in a near-fatal plane crash — an episode that had gained national attention. I became the family spokeswoman, and for some time after my sister had recovered and healed, I continued to receive calls from reporters and producers about our story. One day a message appeared on my phone from the "Oprah Show."

I had stopped returning phone calls at that point, but when the "Oprah Show" calls, you call back. You scream and run around the house with your hands flapping in the air and then compose yourself and you call back.

When the producer answered his phone, I introduced myself in a shaky voice and blurted out an overused phrase to be sure: "I can't believe I am talking to the 'Oprah Show' right now."

For an hour I was on the phone answering questions and promising interviews with my sister. In the weeks following, I did a couple more interviews with a hierarchy of producers. A few days before taping of the show in Chicago, my family was interviewed on camera — a nervous night under hot lights and the scrutiny of the show's crew. For the actual taping, my sister and her husband were there in the studio while the rest of us were interviewed via Skype. We had to sit in front of the camera in my parents' living room for an eternity — seven out of nine of us siblings and my parents shoulder to shoulder waiting for our segment. It was so nerve-wracking and intense that a couple of heated discussions broke out between us and we started to rethink family unity.

At one point, Oprah posed a question for me to answer. Though I had watched many a show about "being in the moment" or "being present in the mind," I could only think, "I am talking to Oprah right now" and subsequently, my jumbled response did not make the final cut.

As the show came to a halt, I thought about my tiny contribution to one show that one time in that one season. It's a part of my personal history: I was part of the "Oprah Show" once.

But after years of tempered watching and understanding the spirit of the show, I have a feeling I would've felt that sentiment anyway. Even if a producer had never left a message on my phone.

C. Jane Kendrick writes for blog.cjanerun.com and cjaneprovo.com. She lives in Provo with her husband and two children.