Having recently declared my non-fandom of Barbra Streisand, I’ll backtrack a bit to give it up for this song from ‘The Way We Were.’ It inspires a snowy memory, a warm and happy memory, a memory of solitude tinged with family ghosts…
It was a night in January. My parents were out of town, so I stopped by Amsterdam to see my brother (who then lived a few blocks away) and to check on the house. We would do similar nights in the future, but for now I was alone in the house in which I grew up.
As evening fell, ghosts from the past entered timidly, whispering friendly words of forgotten scenes – those departed family members who stayed with me through the years, whenever things got quiet, whenever the world let up on me, and sometimes when it felt like everything was crashing down. On this night, it was peaceful and still. A thin layer of snow fell from the sky as I turned on the lights in my parents’ bedroom and searched for something comforting on the television. A Barbra Streisand film – ‘The Way We Were’ – had just begun, so I let it play for a while, as the saccharine melody of Marvin Hamlisch filled the empty room.
In a large dark house, even if you grew up within, it’s easy to get spooked. The wind can make things creak, the floor can make things moan, and if you’re not careful your head has suddenly wrapped itself in terrors that would be unthinkable in the light of day. Thankfully, that didn’t happen on this night. I had the silly curls and serious nails of Ms. Streisand to take my mind off other frights.
Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were.
I watched the unlikely love story between Streisand and a very youthful Robert Redford, looking golden and in his prime, and I was drawn in as the night progressed. It wasn’t what I expected – it was actually much more enjoyable – and I settled onto the bed from which I used to watch ‘Santa Barbara’ if I could get home from school in time.
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
You can never go back. No matter how wonderful or awful it was. All we can do is move forward, keep going, keep trying to be better. Streisand’s Katie Morosky fought for the world to be a better place. Redford’s Hubbell did it in his own way too. I don’t quite have that drive, or that star power. What started out as a comfort left me feeling deflated, as if every endeavor on my plate was an exercise in futility, in simply stalling, or trying to recapture days that were more fun, more vibrant, more alive. Time marched on, leaving the good memories dusty and forlorn.