A Shared Experience
Every time we’ve taken our kids to the movies, it has been an unmitigated disaster. We’re talking multiple exits from the theater—in one 90 minute film. Screams of terror as Curious George gets caught [gasp!] painting the lady’s apartment with a jungle theme. Frantic leaps over several rows of seats to get out before Master Shi Fu yells at Po the Kung Fu Panda. When they saw Up we had a solid week of nightmares.
And yet … we still watch movies. At home.
I grew up instilled with the magic of movie going. The excitement on my dad’s face as we took our seats to watch The Great Muppet Caper is a memory seared into my heart, just as the roar of jets overhead will always take me immediately to a darkened movie theater, transfixed by Top Gun. (The mortification of my father stage-whispering Honey! Are you ok?!? as my thirteen year old self wept real tears over Goose’s tragic passing is another fine memory that will stay with me forever.)
Movies, in my family, have always been a way to connect. Saturday night was movie night: animated discussions were held, back in the day, about what film we would rent at the video store, whether this store would have more Betamax or VHS tapes, and what movie would be cool enough to suit my older brother’s friend who was sleeping over but would still work for the younger ones. Dinner was popcorn and fruit, and root beer was the celebratory beverage. It was an Occasion – occasion of the weekly sort that children remember as the fabric of their growing years, and parents barely realize they’re creating.
This is the power of movie watching within a family. It has the potential to be a group activity, a happy activity, a connecting activity. It is this century’s iteration of the ancient art of story telling. Yes, we simply sit next to each other in the dark. No, there is not a great deal of back and forth between family members. But we hold a hand in the scary parts, we offer a shoulder or a hug in the sad parts, and we share in the hearing of the story.
Movies connect us. We learn, we laugh, we cry. We live other lives in movies, and, ideally, end up grateful to return to the one that is our own.
Tonight at our house we’re making the popcorn and chilling the root beer in preparation for Movie Night. Tonight in the tense parts we won’t have to pace the hallways of the theater – for our kids the happiness is knowing that we can fast forward or turn the sound down low if it gets dicey, and that if need be you can run into the kitchen and watch around the corner