Long ago, my Grandma and I rode the bus downtown to see a revival of Snow White – or possibly Cinderella. I may not remember the name of the movie but more than half a century later I remember the ornate plaster medallions on the ceiling, the red velvet curtains on the sides of the stage, the elegant balcony behind us and the enormous screen before us.
I know Jet is too young to retain a memory of going to the movies with me – she’s already forgotten things she did last summer — but I couldn’t wait to take her anyway. A new Disney Princess had come to town at Christmastime and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to experience Moana with her.
We hurried through breakfast and her bath so we’d be sure to make the matinee. Jet procrastinated about getting dressed until I mentioned that the movie wouldn’t wait for us if we were late. She was shocked at the very idea! We talked about the need to be quiet, too. “If you forget and start to talk out loud, Grandma will say, ‘shhhh’ in your ear,” I told her. We practiced that a few times, just in case.
She held my hand as we entered the nearly empty lobby and I bought our tickets. I let Jet hand them to the employee at the gate. She solemnly accepted the stubs he returned to her. “You take them now, Grandma, I don’t know what to do with them!”
We made our way down the hall to theater number 3 and walked up the short ramp. The look on Jet’s face as she surveyed the screen ahead and the rows of seats behind exceeded all my expectations. She stopped still and stared. A mother and two children came in behind us. “Let’s find our seats,” I said.
We climbed half way up and I ushered her into a row. “Is this okay?” Jet didn’t move. She was mesmerized by the size of the screen. “All right then, let’s take off our coats.”
As I removed my coat, Jet sat down on the edge of her seat. She looked at everything around her. “People can get food here!”
“Yes, but we aren’t going to get any today. When we get home, we’ll have lunch.” She accepted that without comment. I took off her coat and gave it to her to hold in case she felt cold. I scooted her to the back of her seat. As I sat down, Jet’s seat folded shut with her in it!
She remained calm, saying only “Why is my seat doing this to me Grandma?” I took my coat and wedged it into the back of the seat to help keep it open and she gingerly resumed her place. “When will it start?”
“The lights will all go out and it will get dark. Then the movie will start but first there will be some commercials.”
Jet seemed to enjoy most of the commercials, especially the one for the upcoming release of Beauty and the Beast. “Mommy and Daddy are going to take me to see that!” The lights dimmed slightly and Jet looked at the ceiling with a critical eye. “Some of the lights are still on!”
“Yes, it’s not quite time for the movie yet, but it will be soon. Don’t forget that you have to be quiet when the movie starts.”
When the light went out, she was more than ready. I looked at her face more than the screen at first, but an adorable toddler version of the heroine quickly captured my attention. “Who is that?” Jet wanted to know.
“Shhhh! Don’t forget you have to keep quiet!” She nodded.
Another little girl in our row started to laugh and Jet looked at her askance. She turned to me to see if I noticed. I pretended that I did not. As the movie progressed, the grandmother took ill. Her death was symbolically illustrated by the appearance of a white light and a stingray flying through the ocean. I held my breath and looked at Jet from the corner of my eye. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to make the connection.
When Maui appeared Jet spoke again. “Is he bad?” She grabbed my hand tightly and squeezed. I put her on my lap where she stayed for the rest of the movie. When the molten monster appeared, she turned her face into my neck and whispered, “I don’t like that!”
“You don’t have to look. Cover your eyes and this part will be over soon.” She put a hand over her eyes, fingers spread to peek from time to time. The other hand dug into my neck. When Moana fulfilled her destiny to return the monster’s heart, it morphed into a mountainous green “mother nature.” Jet was thrilled. As the lights rose she applauded furiously.
“Maui wasn’t very good Grandma, but then he and Moana got to be friends.”
“Yes, I wasn’t sure he would be a good guy at first either.”
As I put on my coat, Jet walked down the steps to the front of the theater. She stood next to the big screen and looked back at me. I nodded my permission and she crossed the front of the theater and came back up the other side where I took her hand. “I let you do that because we were the only people in here, but if there were more people you’d have to hold me hand.”
“You let me go by myself but I have to hold your hand when there are people, right Grandma?”
“Right. Did you like the movie?”
“What was your favorite part?”
“When she went home to her mommy and daddy!”
“I liked that part too.”
“Hey, Grandma…. can we watch it again?”