Not to be too obscure here but think about this: Marcel Proust's REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST was inspired by the scent of one cookie (a fancy one called a Madeline.) Sense memory is a powerful thing.
I saw Tom Jones 44 years ago, with my high school "film club." The club was just 6 seniors and our creative writing teacher. Our mill town high school wasn't a culture haven but this young teacher was. He handwrote Irwin Shaw short stories onto "ditto sheets" because there was no budget for the books, started a literary magazine (I was the editor, naturally) took us to Shakespeare performances and -- started the film club. At first we rented films (screened on a projector in his classroom) and then moved on to evening journeys "downtown" to local art houses. We saw LA STRADA and THE SEVENTH SEAL, SUNDAYS AND CYBELE and SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER -- and TOM JONES. The films were so intelligent, so clearly different from the "movies" we saw on our own; the theaters served espresso and everyone was smoking. How sophisticated we felt!
This morning as I watched this nearly half-century old film - still funny and charming even though the playful sexual innuendo recalls a more tender time, that 18-year-old girl I'd been came back - all of her. I didn't know whether to be sad -- miss all that I was then - all that's changed -- lost -- or just plain passed - or to be grateful for the remarkable kaleidoscope of experiences that my life has been. From the adventure of a 36 year old marriage to the joy of raising two of the most spectacular young men on the planet to presences at royal weddings and presidential inaugurations, travel all over the world and great music experiences to a gentle childhood with talents acknowledged and appreciated to memorable private moments at weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations and other celebrations with family and friends, a lot has contributed to the wiser woman I am today. I know there's no way to live the life I've lived - or any other - without losing some of the shiny stuff of youth but even so it's a shock when awareness of those losses lands on you in the middle of an unambiguously optimistic movie 44 years old.
Here's what I think: there isn't a person on the planet (despite Edith Piaf) who has no regrets. Recalling days that seem idyllic is a privilege - many haven't got many to recall. Sadness about the joys of the past emerges only from an accumulated reservoir of happiness that is a blessing in itself. As Auntie Mame used to say "Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death." My sisters and I swore we would live by that.
I've tried - and I'm still trying. That's why this blog is called Don't Gel Too Soon. Wherever that 18 year old film fiend has gone, parts of her are still part of me - informing and enlivening the person I've become. The real challenge in this portion of my life is to hang onto the enthusiasm and curiosity of those years - never freezing in place. The last line in Tom Jones, one of my favorite anywhere, was written by John Dryden - way before movies or even radio. It still works though, and I offer its wisdom for us all. “Happy the man, and happy he alone, he who can call today his own; he who, secure within, can say, tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.”