When I was a child, one of my most treasured possessions was a 3-LP set of the soundtrack to the Rankin-Bass 1977 animated movie The Hobbit. (If you are too young ever to have seen an LP, please refrain from leaving a comment to that effect or I will kill myself.) I also had LP sets of Star Wars and I think something about the ancient Mayans, but it is The Hobbit that has remained in my heart in the
countless very few years that have passed since my youth.
A few months after the last movie in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy left theaters, I rented the DVD of The Hobbit and sat down to watch. I enjoyed the movie a great deal, but somehow I felt that I hadn’t quite captured the heart of the long afternoons I spent in front of the record player, reading the 16-page illustrated booklet that accompanied the LPs, ignoring the world around me as I thrilled to what Bilbo and Gandalf and Smaug were up to in Middle Earth.
So I did what I always do when the sea of doubt in which I seem to be permanently adrift threatens to overwhelm me: I went shopping. Specifically, I bought the soundtrack to The Hobbit, for a song, on eBay.
I giggled for an entire day when my purchase arrived, but since I do not own a record player there was really nothing I could do with it but put it on a shelf and sigh wistfully in remembrance of better days, days in which my skin did not know how to wrinkle, days in which I didn’t know the meaning of the word “carbohydrate.”
But a few weeks ago I had a brilliant, brilliant idea: I sent the LPs to a friend of mine who works in the media services department of an institute of higher learning; she transferred them to CD and sent them back.
Which allowed me to listen once more to The Hobbit,this time on my iPod while I worked out at the gym.
My side crunches were accompanied by the mad gibbering of Gollum; I did my pullups in time to elvish singing; my lat pulldowns acquired a thitherto unwonted gravity when John Huston as Gandalf was declaiming in my ear:
The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled their hall to dying fall
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.
And then, in the middle of my chest presses, Glenn Yarbrough started singing the song he wrote for the movie, and I remembered every word and every note as if I had written it myself:
The greatest adventure is what lies ahead;
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.
For the next half hour, through incline dumbbells and unstable pushups and seated rows, I remembered what it had felt like to believe those words. And something in me remembers still, however dimly, and I will clutch that memory as tightly as I can for as long as I can before it evaporates.
I am weeping as I write this.