Back at the apartment, our mother turns away from the camera, and there is a loud bang. A tiny circle of dark red appears on the back of her pink satin robe. The next shot is a close- up. Our mother's face fills the screen in a death snarl revealing upper teeth.
And so our mother's decade- long run as Eunice Gardner Twining Martin Wyatt came to an end. It was her third soap gig, and her longest. She started out in 1962 as Erica Brandt on Young Doctor Malone before making her name in 1964 as the original Dr. Maggie Fielding on The Doctors. Born in 1965, Amanda is the eldest of the four Welch children. She was introduced to soap fans in a splashy Dialing the Daytime Stars magazine spread as "The Baby Who Took Ann Williams off TV." We still have the article, now yellowed with age, tucked away in the same manila folder where Mom stuck it more than forty years ago. When Liz was born, in 1969, Mom had been playing Eunice for three years. Instead of getting written off entirely, Eunice had a breakdown and was temporarily sent to a mental institution. By Dan's birth in 1971, Eunice was so popular that the pregnancy was written into the show. But Mom wasn't pregnant when Jennifer shot Eunice; rumor had it that Mary Stuart, the show's diva and Dan's godmother, was jealous of Mom's fan mail. That's what Mom told us, anyway.
Diana was born in 1977, a year before Mom landed the role of the villainous Margo Huntington on The Edge of Night. Which brings us to our mother's second death: Margo was bludgeoned with a fire poker off- camera in a whodunit story line that continued for weeks after her body was discovered. Margo had a lot of enemies; she was a successful businesswoman who owned the only TV station in Monticello. Her story line involved an illegitimate child, a sham marriage to an ex- cult leader, and pornography.
During the Margo years, as part of their after- school chores, Mom enlisted Amanda and Liz to record her episodes on our VCR, one of the first, which was the size of a stuffed suitcase. At night, when she came home from her day of shooting, Mom labeled each tape with the date, show name, and episode number and placed it chronologically on a bookshelf in her study.