Thursday, July 23, 2009

Old Movies

My best recollection of going to a Drive-In movie with my parents was going to see "Song of the South" and "Aristocats". Dating myself? Perhaps. My father worked two jobs, one of them swing shift, which made owning one vehicle difficult. So, while my parents couldn't imagine owning a new car, for as long as I remember we did own two very used, sometimes unreliable vehicles. My brother's summer birthday was probably commemorated more frequently along the side of the road, waiting for our station wagon to cool down, than actually on the beach. Funny, it's the roadside celebrations we thought were the coolest and most likely remember best. Not that different from our Drive-In experience.

As it was with most parents of the sixties, mine would put us in our PJ's, pack up some snacks, and off we'd go. I remember disliking the whole "PJ thing" because we couldn't play on the playground while waiting for the movie to start; I'd watch the other children sliding and swinging and vow never to subject my children to such injustices. And "packing your own snacks"? What was that? Other parents dropped small fortunes for popcorn, pickles and hot dogs at the Refreshment Stand; mine provided store-bought bags of M&M's and boxes of Ju-Jy Fruits for a fraction of the cost but, as a fellow "packer" (and "PJ'er") I admit, a fraction of the experience. On this particular occasion, I believe it was sometime during "Song of the South" when it began to rain; by the time "Aristocats" had started, it was a monsoon -- and the wipers had stopped working. I remember having to leave, I remember putting up a fight, but if you asked me anything about either of those movies today, I couldn't even tell you the plot. In all likelihood, my brother and I were probably squabbling in the backseat instead of watching the movie anyway.

So, in the interest of nostalgia, last night Scott and I packed up the troops and headed to the Drive-In for a double feature. That's two movies for one low, low price there, Kiddies! We packed and PJ'd and drove over an hour -- but this was nostalgia, right? Just driving into the place, I wanted to stay forever. I remembered so little of Drive-In logistics, aside from the crackling little box that rested on your window; they don't do that anymore -- tune your radio to some obscure, low frequency radio station and the magic of Hollywood enters your car via those speakers that usually thump with Top 40. At the Drive-In, your car becomes your time machine.

Scott and I held the debate Face Front vs. Face Rear; I stewed because, in the interest of keeping the peace, I conceded to Face Front. He stewed because he knew I was stewing. Madison and Olivia sat sighing and looking wistfully at the playground and the Refreshment Stand (they hadn't eaten well at dinner and weren't allowed snacks). We'd placed the two oldest out front on camping chairs and now they were complaining about the mosquitoes. About 5 minutes before showtime, as much as we tried to deny, it was raining, and raining hard enough we had to bring Christine and Joe in. 15 minutes of "He's sitting on me!" "Well, where am I supposed to sit?!" and standing in the rain while camping chairs were stowed and blankets and pillows were distributed. Another 10 minutes of "I can't see" "It's hot in here"... Aah, the Good Old Days. I wondered, "Is this what our parents had to put up with?" I could almost hear their voices, "Amateurs."

We finally found our groove and, despite the rough start, had a great time. Later, as credits rolled and we pulled out of the parking lot, I could almost feel 2009 creeping its way back into the car. The kids had either been asleep, or fell asleep within minutes. Scott and I barely spoke on the way home, as if the sound of our voices would break the spell. We did, however, share "knowing" glances; we had given our children a glimpse of our histories -- what it was really like when we were their ages. Scott silently backed our time machine into the drive, stowing it for another day. We slogged our way up the front steps some time around 3 AM, dumping our gear at the front door, and dropping children into bed, speaking nothing above a whisper. We turned out the lights and, I think, mumbled "Good Night".
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