I’ve been in quite the mood today.  So let me get a few things off my chest.

Watching Pittsburgh play last night was agonizing and heartbreakingly frustrating.  I’m sad their playoff run ended so soon — but I couldn’t have watched that team struggle through another game.  It was painful.  I will miss the veterans on defense whom I am assuming will not be re-signed next year (Kiesel, Harrison, Taylor … dare I say Polamalu?)  I will not miss watching the defense struggle when the Steeler’s defense shouldn’t struggle.  Ever.

Next up:  Whenever I begin watching one of “The Hobbit” movies is “Lord of the Rings.” I’m sure I’ll get over that one day and really crave returning to Bilbo’s adventure with the dwarves.  But right now — I just really need a little Frodo and Sam — with some Strider and Legolas thrown in.  Essentially the entire feeling of “The Fellowship of the Ring”  — none of which “The Hobbit” films have.

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane …. Hopefully it clears up some of my love for the LoTR films.

In early 2002 I’d just returned from studying abroad in Italy.  I’d wanted to stay another semester but circumstances (and finances) prevented it so I found myself back in State College, half-way moved into a room my brother sublet for me in a sorority house (sidenote: I am not, nor have I ever been, in a sorority). My parents had driven the two of us back to school on a cold January afternoon and nearly instantly headed home — for fear of getting stranded by the impending snowstorm.

The snow hit, and I unenthusiastically tried to put my room together.  I was sad, and scared and not at all happy to be back at school.  I felt alone.  Really, fully, in my bones, alone. So — after meeting the girls who would be my housemates for a semester (one of whom is still my great friend, so it all ended up working out!) I decided to go for a walk.  I bundled up (it was cold cold cold) and shuffled around State College (where the sidewalks weren’t all shoveled yet and no one was really out and about). After some walking and far too much introspective thinking, I found myself outside the movie theater and decided to see if anything was playing.  I’d seen Ocean’s 11 that break and had really loved it — I thought watching that again was vastly preferable to returning to my new ‘home.’

Ocean’s 11 had begun half an hour earlier, and wasn’t playing again for quite some time.  In fact, everything in the theatre had start times in over an hour, except The Fellowship of the Ring.   I had absolutely zero desire to see JRR Tolkien’s epic.  As in — none.  I’d read The Hobbit during middle school and enjoyed it.  But I had failed to be even slightly intrigued by the density of The Lord of the Rings.  (That’s the nicest way I can think to describe trying to read Tolkien).

But I also REALLY didn’t want to go back to the sorority house.  So I paid for a ticket, and after taking off several layers of snowy clothing and buying some popcorn and a soda, I settled into the last row of what was perhaps the smallest movie theatre I’d ever been in.  The previews had already begun (I remember thinking forlornly that I’d missed the best part) and I watched and waited for the film to start.

And — not to be overly dramatic — it completely swept me away.  And continues to do so to this day.

That movie, on that day, at that time — something about it was so magical, so transporting — that all the sadness and loneliness of being back at Penn State seemed to melt away into the background.  And strangely — it was also a turning point.  My college experience began to change then — school seemed less dismal, and I made new friends — friends to go drink margaritas with at Mad Mex, friends who came to see me in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, friends who brought me to cross training classes at local gyms  … and so many other things! — sometime I’ll have to revisit the day Minda and I drank White Merlot and watched an entire season of Buffy while the fraternity next door did mud slides on their front lawn.  The next year I became a total theatre school nerd, did lots of shows (both on stage and on crew) and made more friends who are still in my life today.

I know it probably sounds hokey, but there’s a part of me that feels as though that movie saved my life.  Certainly changed my life.  And maybe it did, maybe it didn’t.  But it feels like it did to me.  So a lot of times, when things feel a little overwhelming, all I want is to drift away into Middle Earth and forget my woes.

As I’ve written this, I’ve sort of marveled at how strongly things have marked time in my life.  I can remember so many clear details of opening the door to the movie theater in downtown State College (that no longer exists) and being overwhelmingly disappointed that not a single other movie was available for me to see.  And I also remember walking home in the blustering wind, still halfway in Middle Earth — plotting to buy the books (which I did) and read them from cover to cover (which I did not).  Totally transported to a place of imagination and wonder.   I saw the movie another two times in the theatre, and the subsequent sequels on opening night (Return of the King —midnight showing with my roommate at the time — nearly killed me!  I was so tired by the end and I swear — the sun was coming up when we left the theatre!).

So I stared this post with a completely different intention.  But I enjoyed walking down memory lane.  I am glad of the significance this film has played in my life (just ask the man — we both completely love it).  I’m glad I remembered the story of how I found it.  It’s been  a crazy trip down memory lane.  Insane to think it was 12 years ago.  Time is an amazing thing.


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