yr 12000th episode mashup

Howard Wise/JPI (2), CBS/Courtesy of the Everett Collection (2), Universal TV/Courtesy of the Everett Collection, Sean Smith/JPI, Aaron Montgomery/JPI

They’ve come a long way, baby… and we’ve been there every step of the way.

It all began with a tall, dark and handsome stranger arriving in the tiny town of Genoa City, Wisconsin. Through his eyes, we would meet the locals, including a newspaper publisher and his three daughters, a doctor and the women between whom he was torn, and a manicurist who yearned for a better life that seemed just beyond her reach.

Of the people we met when The Young and the Restless debuted back in 1973, only that ambitious beautician remains on the canvas today, although like those of us who were watching then, she’s changed quite a bit. Gone are her days of buffing nails and imagining what it would be like to live in a mansion on the hill. In fact, this week, as the show celebrates its 12,000th episode, Jill Foster Abbott, will be sipping champagne as her grandson — a living legacy to just how far she was willing to go back in the day — marries into the first family of Genoa City.

More: What *should* be next for Jack Abbott

Hard as it is to believe, there was no Victor Newman when the show debuted. In fact, we would not actually be introduced to the self-made millionaire until seven years into the show’s run.

Even Katherine Chancellor, whose presence will loom large over this week’s festivities despite the fact both she and portrayer Jeanne Cooper are no longer with us, would not be introduced until nearly eight months after the soap’s debut.

More: Remembering the legendary Jeanne Cooper

No, in the beginning — before we began calling daily upon the Abbott and Newman clans — Genoa City was populated by the upper-middle-class Brookses and the struggling-to-get-by Fosters. Their two worlds would be brought together when the ridiculously handsome Bill “Snapper” Foster fell for impossibly naive Chris Brooks. The rest, as they say, is history.

More: Bryton James salutes ‘my best friend,’ Christel Khalil

And this week, that history will be honored as The Young and the Restless once again uses love to connect several Genoa City families. This time, it’s Victor and Ashley Abbott’s daughter, Abby, becoming the wife of Jill’s grandson, Chance. What better way to mark the occasion, given that the late, legendary William J. Bell — who created the soap with his late wife, Lee Phillip Bell — believed that relationships were the lifeblood of the genre.. “You don’t always need heavy trauma to satisfy an audience,” he told On Writing back in 1997. “Romance is the most important thing of all.”

After thinking about what to get the about-to-wed couple (and realizing that we couldn’t afford anything on their registry), we came up with the perfect gift: a digital photo album highlighting the lives and loves of their Genoa City friends and neighbors. Included among the plethora of pictures in the gallery below are rare images and bittersweet memories from the 11,999 episodes that preceded this momentous one. To begin your walk down Memory lLane, just click below.