My husband and I went to a prescreening of Woman in Gold last night. It was hands down the best movie we (we meaning he actually agrees and not just me speaking as a we for him) have seen in a very long time. And we see A LOT of movies. I untderstand if you wish to stop reading at this time, while I do promise this post holds no specific spoilers you may be able to deduce the general feel of the from the following thoughts.
I had figured going into the movie that I may cry. I knew what it entailed and I knew there would be scenes from the life of the main character portraying her life as a young Jewish woman in Austria during the Nazi occupation. What I didn't expect to have happen was to feel so utterly connected to the woman she becomes in her later years of life. Maria is now an elderly woman living in America and has enlisted the help of a young family friend who happens to be a lawyer. At one point in the movie she remarks that you must hold onto pieces of your history so that the memories those tangible items hold do not get forgotten. She then states that it is often the younger generations that do the forgetting. Woman in Gold paints a tragically beautiful, hope-filled picture of what happens with our histories. A picture of that younger generation as it learns to embrace a history that it has more distant connections to, while the direct link to the past learns that while objects can pull memories to the surface they have always been held within us wherever we go.
It was for that very reason that I was a sobbing mess at the end of the movie. I have often thought that with age our memories may grow more gray, the edges may fog and fade, the image become less clear. But I wonder now if that is true. Maybe the older we get the more clear the past becomes, fine tuned by the crisp memories of a youthful soul. Maybe that line between the past and the present becomes thinner and it is easier to see the histories we have tried to block from our minds. That thought was crushing, but it was also inspiring, to think about all the memories a lifetime can hold. I think of the memories, pleasant and not, that I carry with me now. The weight of another 50 years of them seems astonishing.
I can remember sitting with my mimi. While she never had many memory problems there were days when I could tell that she thought she was talking to my mother. It was the present memories, the things that had happened the day before that were easier for her to forget, like the fact that my mother was now a grown adult and not the woman in her early 20s sitting across the able from her. That is was actually me. I was ok with that, because the stories she remembered so clearly were the ones that showed me who she was as a woman my own age.
It does get me thinking, about the things I will recollect if I am around to hit the age of 80. What scenes will I be walking into, what memories will I come face-to-face with, whose faces will I see smiling at me from corners of rooms that are no longer a part of my actual surroundings? I sat there in that theater and I could picture myself old and wrinkled, skin thin but bravado strong, saying things so matter-of-factly. Maybe it really is true that the older you get the less you care about speaking your mind. Maybe you speak what you think because you have waited too long to speak your truth and it is finally time to let it all out. To let out all the memories, all the knowledge, all the lessons learned and life lived. You let it out while at the same time it pulls you in. You get pulled into the past, pulled into the story of who you were and who you have become and in that moment you get to live the best of both worlds. You get to live with all you have learned, all you have walked through, all that you are now, but for a brief moment you also get to live it with all the people who had to leave before you did, including the version of yourself you once were.