On Monday, the staff of the church where I work took a “family movie day” at Hollywood Theater down the street. Drew has only had one movie-going experience (“Cars 2”) which was only a success because we found our seats so early that all the lights were on and the cleaning crew was still sweeping up popcorn from the previous show. If they had been vacuuming the popcorn, well, it would have just been too loud and scary.
“Drew, I’ll let you pick out any candy you want to eat if you go into the movie,” I said triumphantly. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
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We pulled up to the theater and he started hemming, and then he started hawing, until finally he was both hemming and hawing. “Mister Mommy, I don’t want to see a movie.”
“Yes you do. It will be fun.”
Inside the lobby was a Magic Claw machine, which would have provided a movie-length amount of entertainment for Drew had I been so inclined. But inclined I was not. His jovial mood put me at ease. Add a little coke, popcorn, and candy, and my chances for seeing “Madagascar 3” in a terror-free environment were getting better and better.
“What kind of candy would you like?” I asked.
“Yeyyow M-eh-Ms,” he said — peanut M&Ms. I paid for our popcorn, our second-rate Sierra Mist, and our extortion candy, and slipped the chocolate into my purse as collateral.
I said, “Drew, we are going to sit down in our seats before we open the candy.”
We hadn’t even approached the ticket-taker before Drew began closing up again like an enormous roly-poly; I could almost see the hint of a hard exoskeleton forming across his face, arms, and legs. “Mommy, I don’t want to go down there.”
“It’s just a hallway,” I said.
When I opened the theater door, it just so happened that a preview was playing involving the collision of large hulks of steel accompanied by a fiery blast. Not only was this theater not being swept clean by the gentle staff, it was apparently being blown to smithereens by a bloodthirsty alien.
Drew ran across the hallway to sit on a bench. I was holding the theater door open, cradling my coke in the crook of my left elbow while my left hand clutched the popcorn. People were entering the theater, and I greeted them. I held the door wide. Drew watched the procession of his preschool friends and their parents as everyone filed past me, apparently oblivious to the fact that they were all about to die in an inferno.
“Come on Drew, let’s just go inside and peek around the corner. We don’t even have to sit down.” He blinked. “I’ll give you an M&M if you just come in and peek.”
“No! I won’t peek!”
I gave up and joined him on the bench. By now, the movie was five minutes in. “Drew, we either have to go inside the movie, or we need to go home and take a nap. We can’t just stay out in the hallway.”
As if sensing a solution, Drew jumped off the bench and ran over to a vending machine next to the theater door. “Come on, Mommy, yet’s pretend DIS is the movie theater.”
He sat us down right in front of the glowing expanse of vending machine glory, and we watched the static images of ice cream cones beam their beauty into our brains. It was haunting. “Mommy, you get an M&M.”
When a family came up to the vending machine in order to purchase a snack, we had to “leave” the movie theater. But Drew was so thoroughly captivated by the transaction of quarter-kathunk! -ice cream, quarter-kathunk! -ice cream, that he might as well have been watching “Gone With the Wind.”
We resumed our spots on the floor for another ten minutes, but it was all the ridiculous I could handle. “Come on, Drew. Let’s go home.”
After chasing Drew into the Men’s bathroom one time, and saying, “I’m sorry, it’s just too late” about 82 times, and taking Lamaze-style breaths in the car as he wailed I WANT TO SEE THE MOVIE! about 103 times, I began second-guessing how quickly we had left. But there was nothing I could give him, because what Drew really wanted was courage. And how do you give someone courage when they aren’t willing to be encouraged? He hated the idea of seeing the movie, but he hated not seeing it even more. I could tell he really didn’t want to sit staring at the vending machine all afternoon, stymied, sitting in limbo with only the second-best. The hard-way lesson he learned was that you have to live with the consequences of your own fear, with what happens when you — and only you — have blocked the best way. Unfortunately, even a mommy can’t intervene in a melodrama like that.
But she CAN have a front-row seat, popcorn in hand. (Ugh.)
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