I think that the best thing about being on the right side of 50 is the riches we have accumulated in the memory banks. People who are in their 20s have so few good memories compared to us. Oh sure, they have some childhood memories, and maybe even a few teenage memories of the golden variety. But we over-50s have those, and much, much more.
We can look back at the lives we have lived, and the choices we have made. Of course there are always some regrets, but as Sinatra sang “too few to mention.” The golden memories we have include not just our weddings, but the births of our children, their first steps, their first day of school, their proms and (for some of us) their weddings. Some of us even have memories of first grandchildren.
But most of all, we over-50s have golden memories of time enjoyed with significant others in our lives. Maybe it was a spouse, maybe it was a good friend, but the memory banks are chockablock with warm recollections of days gone by. Vacations spent in beautiful places are in there, alongside quiet Sundays at home in bed. We have the blessings of having lived and loved; laughed and cried. And we can summon it up anytime we want to. All it takes is for someone to say, “Do you remember when…”
There are lots of good memories associated with this time of year. Some of them, for me, involve enjoying great works of art. Can you remember the first time you heard Handel’s “Messiah”? How about the first time you watched Linus tell us the meaning of Christmas in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”? I put these in the same paragraph because they both inspire me.
There are tons of Christmas movies around, but some of my favorites are not about Christmas, but just take place at Christmas. An example is “Home Alone.” An older example is “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
One of my favorite movies that take place around Christmas, but is not about Christmas is “A Family Man.” It was made in 2000, and stars Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni. Writers David Diamond and David Weissman create a sort of It-Could-Have-Been-a Wonderful-Life story. Instead of getting to see what the world would have been like without him, Cage, a rich, single businessman gets a “glimpse” of what his life could have been like if he had married his girlfriend, Téa Leoni, instead of flying off to London for an internship.
It’s a beautiful and profound romantic comedy set in the holiday season. It shows the power of choices we make in our lives. It shows how memories are like dominos that can branch off in unexpected directions as life moves us inexorably forward. I recommend watching “A Family Man,” when you’re in a contemplative mood so you can get the full effect. It’s perfect end-of-year viewing.
As another year comes to an end, and something called 2014 begins, those of us who have spent most of our lives in another century can still look forward to making even more golden memories in this one. And those 20-somethings will never catch up to us. When it comes to memories, it’s really an embarrassment of riches for the over 50s.