Message in a Bottle #6
Have you ever loved something, not only because it's unquestionably amazing, but even more so because of the memories connected to it? Do you ever get homesick for a time instead of a place?
I don’t remember the first time I watched The Lord of the Rings, I was so young, my younger brother even more so. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t a part of my life, shaping my imagination, changing the way I looked at the world. My crazy uncle started it, hooked my mom and the older siblings (there’s three of them) and my family would never be the same…in the best way imaginable.
Back when our house was bigger and there were more of us living in it. Back when our yard was a forested land pulled out of the maps of fantasy books, those movies and later the books, became a part of our lives, to remove them would be to change us again.
They brought us siblings together.
There’s a little over a ten year gap between Number One and Number Five in my family. There wasn’t a plethora of things we did altogether. But trouncing out into middle earth to slay orcs, eat lembas bread, and travel distant lands was by far my favorite. At one perfect time that feels far too short now, the older were young enough and the younger were old enough to all escape into our imaginations and be something else for the day, be somewhere else. Mom even got in on it at times. She could turn domestic places like our local wildlife refuge into epic adventures, fostering our imaginations, teaching us to dream.
My younger brother and I were of course always Hobbits, and the older three were the rest of the heroes, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli…
I swear days were longer back then.
Back before life would find ways to harden parts of us all, before we learned the brutal fact that things don’t always stay the same. Life’s cruel that way, you live as a child thinking it’s a certain way, but that’s before it changes for the first time. It’s at different ages for all of us, but at some point the world, life, will change. And then it will do it again and again, making no promises to stop. Instead, it all but pledges to do the exact opposite.
It’s for the best we say, as our hearts all heave a collective sigh. It’s for the best…
The younger bro and I would still imagine long after the older three began to stop, but Lord of the Rings was never quite the same, and we took to different things like Spyro and How to Train Your Dragon. I think our little Middle Earth just felt lonely without them.
But the beautiful thing is once a year, in the dead of winter, I get to relive it all. When the Shire Theme takes a breath and starts for the first time I sigh with it and find it that much easier to navigate back through the tangle of memories, back to when we were as green as the grass on those hills.
They couldn’t have known, could they? The makers of the films couldn’t have known the parallels that would be made between two old friends reuniting and our feelings of returning to the films? How those feelings would run deep as the trenches carved out on our lives from our own memories we’ll never forget.
The first movie isn’t twenty minutes in and yet there is memory, there is history there. The smiles on their faces are full of countless shared laughs and tears. The actors may have only met each other that year, but Bilbo, Gandalf, and Frodo have been friends for an age. And while they’re looking into the eyes of their old friends, so am I.
The Shire especially reminds me of those precious days, because it’s safe, just like then.
Yes, for those of us that still live at home, we hunker down every winter and watch the trilogy, extended editions and all, and sometimes even throw The Hobbit in.
I allow myself to feel that ache, knowing that there’s not much else I can do BUT feel it.
It’s a conundrum in itself why I love it so much, because it’s never really enough to just remember those things. If we’re honest, what we really want is their return, to pick up their bags of lost things, smelling like summer sunshine, leave the past, and to sojourn here with us again.
But memories are only that— the pieces we hold onto of things that can’t come back. We see a distant glimpse of our childhood home shrouded in mist, a spilt second flash of how our siblings or friends used to look as kids, and then its gone…until we remember again. Because nostalgia is the love for something that was once ours and is now lost.
Then we’re at the harbors, the very end, and I cry for many reasons. Happy tears for Frodo. Heartbreaking tears for those he’s leaving behind. And a mixed bag of pain, healing, loss, joy, sticks, mud, and fireflies sort of tears for the things I have left behind.
As Frodo says his goodbyes, I take a moment to send a little wave to my childhood, maybe it’s a hello, maybe it’s a goodbye…and just maybe…it’s a little bit of both. And I feel grateful because not everyone has something that connects them so deeply to something they love so much.
Thank you for allowing me to share this with you. I haven’t cried this much while writing something in a long time…if ever.
Fair winds and following seas
P.s. I’d love to hear back from you. What’s that something for you that’s connected to so many precious memories? Is it a place? An activity that’s since gotten lost at the bottom of the metaphorical toy chest? If you’re willing to share, I’m all ears.