I just finished watched an 8 episode series called 11.22.63 starring James Franco and assuming, you don’t live in a bubble, I’d guess that you remember that the significance of that date was that it was the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. The show was also starring Chris Cooper, another great actor, and it was based on the premise that there was a rabbit hole through which James Franco was able to travel through which would bring him back to 1960, allowing him 3 years to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Now if you plan to watch this show, then please proceed carefully because I may create some spoilers with my upcoming blog. The show, as I said, was 8 episodes and in addition to James Franco being given the opportunity to go back in time to essentially change history, he was also faced with several obstacles that were created by history to prevent it from happening. As Chris Cooper had instructed him at the beginning of this adventure, “history” tends to fight back against those looking to change it. These obstacles included James Franco almost getting run down by a car, being beaten within an inch of his life resulting in severe amnesia, to him falling in love, which leads to him being so distracted that he tended to forget his mission.
But he was successful, he changed history and then went back to 2016 to find that none of what Chris Cooper had hoped would have happened had JFK not been killed, had actually happened. Yes, the States never got involved in the Vietnam War and someone else became president after Kennedy ran his two terms. But the dreams that Chris Cooper had of the world having been a better place had Camelot been able to exist for longer than our history books tell us it did, never happened. James Franco returned to 2016 to find a slum in the small town of Maine that he had left behind where his colleague was homeless and there were ruffians on the street. And this was after his love had been killed during his altercation with Lee Harvey Oswald back in 1963.
So what did he do? He went back to 1960 and reset history back to how it should have been and then returned to 2016, feeling so disillusioned…having lived three years in the 1960’s with this idea that history had to be rewritten for the benefit of human kind…to only realize that all that suffering and heartache happened for a reason and had actually created a world better than the world that had been imagined by the Chris Cooper character had hoped the world to be.
He then visited the woman who he had fallen in love with during his 3 year hiatus in the 1960s, except in this version of history she had not been killed during the interaction with Lee Harvey Oswald because he had reset history back to how it was meant to happen. He found a woman who was in her 70’s and who was being honored for her work as a librarian in her small town. He went to her during this great event and asked her to dance, as the 30+ year old he was during 2016. During their dance, she kept thinking and saying that he seemed familiar and James Franco kept saying more than the fact that they knew each other during a different lifetime, he kept asking her if she was happy…had she lived a happy life. And while she admitted that life had been filled with obstacles, she had done work she felt had made a difference and that yes, she had a happy life.
I could not stop crying…bawling my eyes out during this scene, wondering what any of us might change if given the chance to rewrite history. One thing I always say is what I would sacrifice to be able to speak to my mother again…wish I could have known her back when she was young and deciding to marry a man that could never have made her happy, regardless of the fact that he gave her two children who made her life worth living. I wish I could have been there to ask her even just 35 years ago, to see if she was happy and if not, to give her the strength and support needed to do what she had always wanted to do with her life…move to the City, become a graphic designer, stay single until she saw the world and found the man who completed her…spend her days wandering museums and seeing foreign films to her heart’s content. Kind of how she raised me to design my own life…
I guess she knew how not to repeat history in me. I guess she really was the smartest woman I knew…she knew that it was OK to leave me behind after having taught me the lessons she had learned during her life. So while changing history for me may have resulted in my having saved her from her death 12 years ago, I do know that if I did that, my life would have turned into something very foreign from the life I live now. I know that I would never have grown the strength I’ve gained in the past 12 years to live the life that I want, though while still missing her terribly. I now have a butterfly tattoo on my shoulder representing my mother…how she always had my back and how she’ll always be on my shoulder, keeping me strong. “You and me against the world.” Right, Mom?
So in memory of so many people whose lives could never be changed…
“We did not ask for this room or this music; we were invited in.
Therefore, because the dark surrounds us,
Let us turn our faces toward the light.
Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty.
We have been given pain to be astounded by joy.
We have been given life to deny death.
We did not ask for this room or this music.
But because we are here, let us dance.”
– Ms. Sadie Dunhill of 11.22.63