Lara’s Theme

Somewhere my love there will be songs to sing
Although the snow covers the hope of spring.
Somewhere a hill blossoms in green and gold
And there are dreams, all that your heart can hold.
Someday we’ll meet again, my love
Someday whenever the Spring breaks through…

Lara’s Theme, from the movie “Doctor Zhivago”
Maurice Jarre, Francis Paul Webster

The movie came out in 1965, I believe, but I didn’t see it until about 1967, in one of those ornate and plush, now defunct, downtown New Orleans movie theaters. It was The Saenger, if I recall correctly. It could have been Lowe’s. I’m not sure. I was a junior in high school, and it was the occasion of one of several ill-fated and ultimately, when I think about it, pathos-filled “dates” one is supposed to go on to be like everyone else, or at least to seem “normal” in those inner-turmoil-filled years between 15-18. If to no one else, then, I must have had to prove something to myself, but I don’t even remember if that was the reason.

The movie was “Doctor Zhivago,” based on the novel by Boris Pasternak, which was a big bestseller. It was one of the romantic movies of the decade, a must-see, sprawling drama of “love and passion” that took place in Russia during the Boshevik Revolution. It had everything big, blockbuster movies of the Sixties were supposed to have: grand music scores, war, drama, and a powerful love story . And it was long. Not for short attention spans. Probably not good for teenage dates, either. What did I know?

I think of the movie whenever I hear “Lara’s Theme” (“Somewhere My Love”), the theme song of the movie. Many years ago when an oldies station in town played it frequently, I found myself listening to it.

When I decoded  to dip deep into my Memory Vault and write this, I thought long and hard about that song, for it is a primary inspiration for recalling some of the most awkward memories of my high school days.  But the song always has, and will continue, to take me back to that huge, single-screen movie theater in the days of my youth, and, I recall sadly, the girl who accompanied me, G___ who was quiet, seemingly clueless like me, not too popular, not unpopular, a daughter of one of my parents’ country club and Saturday night suburban party friends.

I probably should have gone to a James Bond movie. All I can remember is wondering why I was there. How rigid and quiet she was. The melancholy scenes of a Russian winter, and the sad, moody music. It’s interminable length. The exquisite agony of wondering what to do afterward.

I did the only thing I could, and delivered her home to her parents, who were waiting up, of course, and I felt nothing but intense anxiety, embarassment, and a bit of shame. What an awful pretense. What was I doing?

G__ was nice. But I hardly knew her, and don’t think I cared to. It’s not like I ever did that much socially, or date-wise. I rarely even went to movies. I didn’t have a group to hang out with. I stayed home mostly, even on Saturday nights when my house was filled with adults eating, drinking, shouting, dancing and singing to Frank Sinatra songs and the swing music of Benny Goodman’s orchestra. There was no escape from it. Hour after hour. This happened on more than a few occasions during my rather atypical suburban youth.

I was in a sort of perpetual holding pattern. Waiting for something to happen, some perfect friend to come along, some infatuation or special person. We’re all bored to some extent at that age. We want excitement, don’t we?

It was very very hard to be truthful to yourself in those days. And when a special person, A___, did come along in my senior year, it was, again, wrong, wrong, wrong. But, as I was the “knight in shining armor,” — thin, tall, bordering on gangly, rather good looking or, as she used to kid me, “tall, dark and handsome” — how could I not believe it or feel flattered? After all, this was the most intelligent and cooly cerebral person in my entire senior class of 400 plus. She was part of the inner, elite circle of the high school’s intelligentsia, the four students who were National Merit Scholarship winners, which in the Sixties was a huge thing.

Unfortunately, I was just outside on the periphery of that rarified club. Smart, and in all the college prep classes, but not of her caliber, I thought. But she apparently thought so. I was in awe of the mind, and then of the personality, and that was it. Awe, not love or even infatuation. I loved the way she talked and wrote and used the English language. Intellectual, smart things.

Hiding behind a carefully and skillfully crafted personna, had I the guts to rip off the mask then and be honest, searingly honest? No, because fear and the perceived need for conformity made risk-taking much too difficult and even dangerous back then, as it is today still, but much more so in Sixties.

A sad end came to that relationship, which I thought about with regret and not a small amount of self-loathing over the years.

G___, and her mother visited me and my mother in Charleston about ten years ago, a few years before her mother died from cancer.  It was a very happy reunion because both G___ and I were doing all we could for our mothers.  She a  nurse, was divorced and living alone. No children.

As for A___, about seven years ago, out of the blue, I got a letter from her. Shocked would not adequately describe my sense of disbelief as I stared at the the envelope.  It had been almost 50 years since I last had any contact with her.  I had no idea what had happened to her, but I at least knew her married name through high school reunion literature sent to me over the years, which I looked at with interest, but never did anything about. I felt sure she had had a career an English professor somewhere, married to another professor.  But as it turns out, that was far from what happened.  I discovered  many things about her life in a rather remarkable back and forth, pen-pal type of correspondence, thinking, maybe wrongly,  that she was probably hoping to rekindle her feelings for me after her husband had died a few years before. All in all, it was a delightful and meaningful exchange.  I greatly anticipated her letters, and  it felt slightly like being in time warp, especially at the beginning when we talked a lot about high school, but later shifted to many other topics, mostly concerning our day-to-day lives.  Nothing too terribly intellectual or witty, as back in the old days.

Now, it’s back to memories only, as she informed me in her last letter a couple of years ago (we never used text or email) that she had fallen in love with a man older than she was, 80, I believe, a retired Marine, and was spending her time with him, and I thought they would even get married.  I never found out.

I wrote back saying I was happy for her, and that I had a few years ago found, through a writing community on the Internet, someone with whom I “talked” daily by means of online notes and comments, who was highly intelligent and  wrote beautifully, and who was one of the few people who has ever truly comprehended me.  I ended by saying life has been much richer and less lonely for that.   

I haven’t heard from A___ since, although I was happy to have continued the correspondence.  I guess we had different motivations.

However, I’m glad she contacted me back in 2016 because the correspondence we shared for several years enabled me to mend, to a large extent, the sudden rift and ending of our relationship (friendship, actually), back in high school and the first year of college.  The ending was solely my doing.

I still treasure the long, beautifully worded note from her in my senior yearbook, on which we served as departmental editors. I have letters from her in a steel box with other keepsakes from decades ago. Not too long ago, I thought about shredding them, but for some reason I continue, even now, to hold on to them. It’s a part of my past I want to forget in many ways, but which I can’t. No one could forget such a person. And so, tangible reminders are preserved faithfully, even if never looked at.

And now, another batch of letters from our recent correspondence sits in another box in my closet.  I haven’t gone back and looked at any of those either.  I’ve always liked corresponding and writing letters.  I believe that during this rather lengthy correspondence, I rectified some old wrongs and hurtful behavior toward her on my part.  It’s all quite amazing when I think about it because I had long carried that baggage of guilt about the way I had behaved toward her 50 years ago, though it was more inevitable than willful or based on any I’ll-feelings toward her.  So I have no more guilt about that.  Also, during the years we were back in touch, I was just a year away from retirement, and was in the final years of taking care of my mother who had dementia.  It was nice to write a long letter every couple of months and take my mind off the ceaseless anxiety and worry of caregiving.

Life goes on. Life is lived. Incompletely. Regretfully, wistfully, knowingly. Wiser in some ways, but in other ways, locked in time and identity.

“Somewhere my love, there will be songs to sing..”

Lara’s Theme:

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October 12, 2023

I kept letters from my old boyfriend for many years after I got married, along with a couple of keepsakes from him. I finally got rid of them, and now I wish I had them. The only thing left is a ring he gave me (not engagement — I wish!).

October 13, 2023

@startingover_1 Yes, I’m afraid if I toss them, I’ll wish I hadn’t!

Twenty years ago I had numerous email correspondents and I actually printed  out all or most anyway of the email/letters, believe it or not.  I had several boxes of emails, and some of the contents I’ve shredded, but still have a bunch of them.  Haven’t printed them out since then because I had terrible printers and figured it would really get unmanageable, and I’d never get a chance to read them since I’m getting so old!

October 26, 2023

I’m glad you had the chance to make things right with A__.  I love writing letters the old fashioned way.  There’s nothing like the excitement of seeing a letter in your mailbox.  You can really get to know someone writing back and forth like that.

I’ve never heard Lara’s Theme or heard of it.