Message to My Daughter (1973 TV Movie)
A confused teenager discovers a stack of tapes recorded years earlier by her dying mother.
- College student Miranda Thatcher is having a difficult time dealing with her father and stepmother, Jeff and Lorraine, yet she cannot explain what is wrong. While out with friends, she has a panic attack and runs out of the restaurant. Jumping into her car, she speeds away recklessly, eventually striking another car. No one is injured, but Jeff insists that Miranda move back home while her car is being repaired. She cuts him off rudely when he expresses his concern. Then he brings her a carton containing an old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape recorder and a stack of tapes. Miranda's mother, Janet, who died 18 years earlier, made the tapes for her daughter. She told Jeff to give them to Miranda when the time was right.
Miranda has the tapes transferred to cassettes and buys a portable player. After stuffing a few clothes into a tote bag and stealing money from her father's bureau drawer, she goes to the train station. Her destination is not clear yet, but she ends up traveling to Chicago, which was her mother's home town. After fending off a sleazy duo who try to pick her up, and escaping the clutches of a nosy elderly woman, Miranda settles down to listen to the tapes.
Janet introduces herself and says she is dying. Miranda hears a baby in the background and realizes it is herself. As a teenager, Janet Oliver was very wild, constantly fighting with her parents and having unprotected sex with her boyfriend. When she tells her parents that she is pregnant, they send her to live with an aunt in California. Once the baby is born, it will be placed for adoption. But Janet has other plans.
On arriving in Los Angeles, she consults the phone directory and chooses a doctor at random. At first he refuses to help her obtain an abortion, but relents after Janet threatens to do it herself. She calls the number given to her and arranges for the procedure. At the last minute, repelled by the unsanitary conditions and suspecting that the abortionist is not even a doctor, she changes her mind. But the so-called doctor and his assistant refuse to refund her money.
Broke and not wanting to go to her aunt's, Janet wanders into a movie theater. Sitting alone in the darkness, she cannot hold back the tears. A young man sitting behind her asks what is wrong. Janet tells him her story and is not surprised when he gets up to leave. But he is only moving to sit next to her. He introduces himself as Jeff Thatcher and says she has a choice. She can sit there and feel sorry for herself, or she can have a cup of coffee with him. Janet chooses the latter and they begin a whirlwind courtship.
Jeff and Janet soon marry and Miranda is born several months later. They are very happy until Janet falls ill. She is admitted to the hospital for tests, but no one will tell her what is wrong. After being harshly reprimanded by the nurse for trying to read her own chart, Janet resigns herself to waiting. At last she learns the truth. She has a severe blood disorder which will eventually prove fatal.
Knowing that her daughter will not remember her, Janet begins recording tapes for Miranda, describing her life and sharing her thoughts. She tries to prepare Jeff for her death, but he is angry and upset. They argue over inconsequential matters, such as Jeff using the typewriter while Janet is trying to rest. But what bothers Jeff the most is Janet's refusal to contact her parents. She tells Jeff he can call them after her death, but he says that is too cruel. Janet is their only child and she must give them the chance to say goodbye.
The Olivers visit and Janet reconciles with them. They are enchanted with Miranda. But Janet is growing weaker, and soon a nurse is called in to help. Miranda is sad when she starts the last tape, for her mother has become very real to her.
After arriving in Chicago, Miranda goes to the cemetery where her mother and grandparents are buried. She thanks Janet for helping her through a rough time. Then she telephones her father to wire her money to come home.