By WENDY HODGE
Last weekend, Tim and I went to the movies. “Top Gun — Maverick” was playing on the Big D at the Tiger Town 13, and we had tickets for our date night. We don’t go to the movies very often because we enjoy the theater we have created at home, with shows we can binge-watch and unlimited popcorn and drinks that we don’t have to sell a kidney to finance. And the ability to pause any time we like for bathroom breaks — very important perk.
But this was one of those movies we just knew would best be appreciated on a massive screen surrounded by people as eager as we were to see if Tom Cruise still had “the need for speed.”
The movie did not disappoint. It was, in my opinion, even better than the first Top Gun. And that’s impressive. Pulling off a sequel to a hit is no easy task. As the end credits rolled, we stayed in our seat watching the crowds file out, and it struck me that every single person in the theater was over 50. More gray hair than your average Saturday movie crowd, more wrinkled faces, cardigans to fight the air-conditioned air, and even a cane or two … I was struck by a sudden wistful sadness. We all, every person in that room, had been so young when Top Gun first premiered. We’d had the whole of our lives in front of us. And now, here we were, 36 years down the road — no longer young, no longer close to the beginning of life.
Walking out of the theater, I got a text from my sweet daughter, just checking on me. And a memory washed over me. Abbey was my baby who loved to sleep. She actually used to ask me, in her 3-year-old voice, “Mama, can I go to bed?” Like I would say no. “Of course, sweetie,” I would answer. And then I would carry her to her room and snuggle her in her big-girl bed while the boys in the house continued to fight sleep and bounce off the walls.
The memory, though, that struck me in the parking lot of the Tiger Town theater was a warm summer night when Abbey was around 4 years old. We had just moved into our new house, and her room was still full of half-unpacked boxes and scattered treasures. She’d spent the afternoon watching Barney Goes to the Circus Part 2 on her own little pink television. At her regular bedtime, I tucked her into a brand new big-girl bed, but instead of closing her eyes and drifting off she sat straight up and began to cry.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, reaching to hug her.
“I don’t want my eyes to go to sleep,” she answered.
“Why not? I know you’re so tired.”
“But, Mama, if my eyes go to sleep I’ll miss Part 2.”
“Part 2?” I asked. “Of Barney, you mean?”
“No, part 2 of today. I don’t want to miss what happens next.”
The best part of that memory is that we stayed up together, Abbey and I and her brother, and watched Barney and laughed until way past everyone’s bedtime. Part two of our day was just as good, if not better, than part one.
Wisława Szymborska, a Polish writer, once said, “Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.”
All those years ago, when Top Gun was a brand new story, my own story was really just beginning. And now, I’m in what I think of as my “sequel years.” And, I have to say, I’m loving it all. Despite the aches and pains of aging bones and the wrinkles and gray hair that have crept up out of nowhere, I am hopefully wiser and definitely more joyful and content.
I wouldn’t trade Part 1 for anything, but I am cherishing Part 2 with every fiber of my being.
And now, I think, I’ll call my daughter and invite her for movie time in our home theater … something sweet and sentimental … we’ll need cookie dough and Kleenex.