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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Here is one memory I do not have: my mother in a movie theater. And yet I know she was in one at some point in her life, because when Seven Brides for Seven Brothers came on TV, she whipped up salties and sweets and insisted I sit down to watch with her because she remembered seeing it when it came out.

But the profile I remember next to me in the dark of a theater is my father's. He took me to see Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan at a cinema on Connecticut Avenue with an enormous curved screen. In my memory when I turned to look at my dad I could see the edge of the jungle behind him, but I'm not sure that isn't just a trick of my mind, impressed by the size and curve of the screen.

The Year of Living Dangerously we saw at the MacArthur. When it was over my father took me to the old deli with all the wine bottles that was near our house. He sat me down with a Fanta and then matter of factly stated, "I shouldn't have taken you to that." I was stunned by what I'd seen; having no familiarity with Indonesian politics all I took in were the chilling images of a dead child and a man falling to his death.

We alternated his movie, my movie, his movie, my movie, and so in turn I also subjected him to horrors of a different sort: films like Tomboy, which was so astoundingly bad that we choked on our laughter to the point of coughing fits several times. When my father dropped me back at the house, my mother asked how it was, and my father looked into the middle distance and exhaled, "Breathtaking!" which set us laughing again.

The last movie I saw with my father was Hoot. The oldest explained that he had read the book, and it was about owls, and he knew Grandpa loved owls, so he wanted the three of us to go. My normally enthusiastic father hemmed and hawed as I watched my nine year old's face register surprise, then confusion, then hurt. Finally I set the child in front of the TV and took my father into the kitchen to ask what exactly the problem was. Looking at the floor, he said he didn't want to let the boy down, but he also didn't want to ruin it for us, that his "dark vision" was awful, and the only place he thought he might could see from was those first few rows where nobody ever sat.

And so my very last memory of my father in a theater is this: his profile just beyond my son's, both of them beaming and seat-dancing to Jimmy Buffett, the unmitigated joy on their faces illuminated by the light of the giant screen just a few steps away.
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