My First Movie Theatre Experience

I am short-tempered today, testy. I was quite well-adjusted earlier, or so I thought, but then I kept running into other peoples' insensitivity, or maybe I am just being really sensitive, and now I am annoyed.

It feels petulant, this being so put out by other people acting all put out or judgmental. I am two years old and have just suffered the unfairness of being denied toffee I would not eat anyway. Stompy stompy.

(Five minutes pass in which I read websites and hover over the warmth of a fresh cup of coffee).

Things are beginning to look up, and it is because of something I read over at Sweetney's place. She mentioned the first movie she ever saw, and it threw me back into the memory of the first movie I clearly remember seeing a movie theatre.

It must have been at some point in the late 1970s, and the only movies I had seen before were old ones on our little television set in the basement that had rabbit ears decked out with tinfoil to cut through the static. I remember standing beside the television holding a rabbit ear in my right fist while I leaned forward around the set so that I could get a better look at the hats they wore in "The Music Man". The reception was best if I reached my left leg back to rest it on the fireplace ledge, but I could not see the screen that way, and it made me feel like a houseplant.

Sometime after that but before the eighties settled in, I and my family were visiting with my grandparents in their small town. There was not much to do while the weather was dismal, so my uncle suggested that my grandmother take my cousins and me to the movie theatre where he ran the projector in the neighbouring town.

To me, movie theatres were the stuff of money and sophistication and big cities. During the whole car ride out of town, I ran through my mind what it must be like to sit in such a large room in the dark with so many other people. I would have to be quiet and sit still, and I imagined being a big girl with my hands neatly folded in my lap to show my younger cousins how it was done.

The theatre was a run-down building that was obviously in its last days, even to my young eyes, but it was glorious. The carpet, once loudly patterned and bright was mashed down with spilled, sugary beverages, chewing gum, and muddy farmers’ boots. My feet stuck to the cement floor on the other side of the swinging doors, and the upholstery on the seats was worn smooth where generations of hands had gripped them along the sides. My grandmother told me not to touch anything with my hands if they were going to be anywhere near my mouth, but that was an impossible order. I had to hold onto the seat to twist around and see how the light glinted off the metal-rimmed chair backs and where the other silhouetted heads were in the dark.

"Bambi" was playing that night, but I only caught about half of the movie. I forgot all about behaving like a big girl during the Woody Woodpecker short before the main feature even began. I spent a good portion of the time turned around in my seat so that I could watch the flickering bulb from the projector and imagine what a great man my uncle must be to have been given such an important job as this.

My grandmother fed us hard candies from the cache in her purse to keep us quiet in the theatre, and then we all fell asleep in the back seat of the car on the way home, slumped against each others' shoulders. I only woke long enough to tell my dad Bambi's dad was scary while he carried me from the car to my aunt's old bedroom upstairs.

His flannel shirtsleeves stuck to my sticky fingers, which left lint in my mouth when I licked the melted candy from them. It was common enough, though, that I did not mind the texture.