Saturday, December 16, 2023

Popcorn, Family, and the Wonderful Life

A few years ago, I discovered a hidden world I knew nothing about:  Reaction videos on YouTube.  It was quite a realization, and I find myself thoroughly enjoying watching movies I love or listening to my favorite songs with new eyes and ears as I watch these people see movies or hear music I know so well for their first time.  And I gain a greater appreciation for those things that I love, watching their surprise, despisement and/or enjoyment, among other emotions.

My absolute favorite reaction channel is Popcorn In Bed.  Cassie, the young lady who hosts the channel, is adoringly sweet and genuine in her reactions to movies of all kinds, and I love to see her discover many of the ones that I've watched and loved over my own lifetime.  There is an honest innocence to her reactions, and I love to watch her become so ingrained and entrenched in the movies as she expresses her sadness, sense of humor, anger, frustration, and love of the characters as they tell their story.  For her to be able to make me feel the way she feels, even after I've seen some of these movies for the second, third, tenth, or fiftieth time, is a very real feat.

Tonight I watched Cassie's reaction to the movie THE FAMILY MAN, starring Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni, among others.  THE FAMILY MAN follows the lead of its predecessors, A CHRISTMAS CAROL and my all-time favorite movie, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, with a Christmas background theme around the main characters experiences with the supernatural, which gives them the opportunity to see their lives from a different perspective as they go through a personal crisis, whether brought on by their own actions and personality flaws, or because of circumstances that cause conflict, doubt, sadness, anger, or frustration.

Without giving away too much of the movie's story, THE FAMILY MAN tells the story of a man who believes he has the perfect life, one of solitude, success, and what he believes is happiness, that was sent in motion at a point in his life where he made a choice to take that path.  But after encountering his own version of a "guardian angel," he is given a glimpse of what his life could have been had he made a different choice, with a loving wife and family, and without the high paying executive job and extravagant lifestyle he thought he wanted.  And we get to watch his transformation as the realization of what he really wants comes to fruition.

It's a classic wish fulfillment scenario, much like a fairytale, and we begin to root for him as he starts to accept this other life over the one he had, but then tries to bring those two lives together with devastating consequences, and then he's thrown back into his old life and begins to regret it.

I find myself sometimes wishing my life could have been different.  I found the love of my life, started a family, had a child, then lost my wife suddenly after only four years of marriage, when our daughter was just a baby.  She died of a heart ailment of which we were unaware.  It's not lost on me that my daughter just turned 20 years old, and in a few months, it will be 20 years since I lost my Teresa.

How different would my life had been had she lived?  I hate to speculate, but oh how I wish she could see how her daughter has grown, and the successful young woman she has become.  I wish she could have shared in my own job successes and failures, so that we might support each other during those highs and lows.  I wish she could see how her students have gone on to have successful lives and careers, knowing she had a small part in helping them achieve those successes when they had her as their freshman English teacher, or in her public-speaking classes.  I wish she could experience seeing her parents become grandparents, and assist them as they have grown older.  I wish we could have grown old together.

But the truth is that she and I didn't get to have a chance to grow old together.  The solitude of the past 20 years is something I would trade in a second to have her be with me now.  But at what cost?  Would it have been better than what I had?  I assume it would be better but there's no way to know.  I have accepted that the Lord had a plan for each of us, and that didn't include her life with mine past that April 19th date twenty years ago.  Melody wasn't meant to have her mother in her life, and instead she doesn't even know what she missed, since she was too young to even remember her.  It's a tragedy in my mind, since I DO know what she missed by not having a mom.  It makes me sad, and it's why I'm in therapy for depression, even after so many years.

So I try not to think about it.  Instead, I will live vicariously thru the lives of the characters in these movies, who do get to see what life would be like had things been different.  George Bailey, in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, will forever be a role model for me, so that I will always understand that the life we've had is the best life we have.  In fact, next week I will go to the American Film Institute's Silver Theater in downtown Silver Spring, MD, with my parents and my daughter, to see IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE on the Big Screen.  It has become an annual tradition for me, and this will be about the fifteenth time I've seen it there over the years, the last ten with my daughter, who has grown to love it as much as I do.

And I appreciate people like Cassie, from Popcorn in Bed, who allows me to watch movies with her, and even stated in her introduction to THE FAMILY MAN how welcome we are to enjoy her company, especially when we are alone or are lonely due to circumstances.  I highly recommend that you check out her site on YouTube.  Her personality and love of movies is infectious.  

(Cassie, if you ever read this, I hope you will someday soon watch my second favorite movie of all time, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, the first of the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romantic comedies... I guarantee you will enjoy this fairytale of a movie...)

Best wishes to you readers out there as we approach this wonderful time of year.  I hope you have a blessed and meaningful Christmas season.