(Fun movie -- Mark and I liked it a lot -- and the short animated film that precedes it, "Paperman," is beautifully animated: classic Disney.)
The not-quite-three-year-old is not quite sure what he thinks about "big movies." He sits on my lap, hides his face sometimes, studies the screen and doesn't smile or laugh, nurses a lot.
This time he watched most of the movie. He started out squeezed between Mark and me (the theater armrests flip up and out of the way -- a benefit to bigger-these-days moviegoers, I guess, but I bet the teenagers appreciate it too). Not too far into the film he climbed up on my lap and leaned back into me, watching the movie in the studious sort of way he does it, one little leg hanging down on either side. I wrapped my arms around him and he took hold of the fingers of my hands in front and held them tightly. I buried my nose in his hair from time to time in the darkness and inhaled the toddler fragrance: fruit-scented shampoo, a faint whiff of Christmas chocolate.
Movie theaters give me a strange feeling of nostalgia. It might simply be because I haven't gone often since we had children, which wasn't long after we were married and so being in one takes me back pretty far. I remember being little, scared by the Blueberry Girl scene inWilly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the one with Gene Wilder) and having to be taken, sobbing, from the theater. I remember going to see Dirty Dancing with my best friend in seventh grade, one of the first times I was allowed to go to a movie without adults, and the two of us gushing about it being the best movie ever afterwards. My most intense memory is of being deeply frightened and thrilled by Terminator 2 in the summer of 1991 -- in a dark theater, I can easily conjure up the sick feeling of watching that nuclear-bomb scene. I remember going with Mark in 1997 to see the re-release of Episode IV of Star Wars in a brand new theater in Columbus with cushy captains' chairs -- I think it was actually on its opening night -- and being secretly charmed by the slightly younger geek behind me, who was positively bouncing in his chair with slavering excitement.
My favorite memory: I had the great good fortune to view Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb -- for the first time -- in a packed movie theater on the Ohio State campus, as part of a Kubrick retrospective. Comedy is funnier in a theater, you know -- and the evening I spent experiencing that gem of a satire in the company of a hundred other young adults, most of whom had never seen the movie before, was an experience I would not trade away for a hundred big-box matinees.
Yesterday, after the trailers finished and the lights dimmed, the Disney intro started ("when you wish upon a star....") with its swooping vista of the castle and fireworks, and I was taken back again. It reminded me, briefly, of my late mom, who was one of the world's great appreciators of all movies, and who probably would have enjoyed the modern crop of high-standards animations put out by Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks.
I hope I manage to squirrel away the memory of the warm, surprisingly heavy weight of my littlest guy leaning back in my lap, of his wide eyes and of his fingers wrapped around mine. It won't be too long before he demands his own seat, first (probably) between his dad and me, and later (probably) with those big brothers at the other end of the row.