Monday, November 10, 2008

A Spoonful of Sugar...

Last night I watched a movie that I hadn't really watched in twenty years or more. The first time I saw it was in 1966, at a theater, I forget which one, in the Denver area. Probably the Woodlawn in Littleton. This was back when especially good (read: profitable) movies were chased through the theaters a second time before being turned into TV specials.

I remember growing up with Saturday matinee movies in my home town of Stoughton. The Badger Theater was just around the corner from where my mom worked at the library. On Saturday I'd get up, clean my room (sort of), and watch cartoons. Around 11:30 or so, I'd collect fifteen (15!) cents and walk the umpty-ump blocks (give me a moment and I could count them, but it wasn't far, even though it was sort of across town).

By the way, that fifteen cents went like this: a dime for the movie, and a nickel for whatever candy I wanted. What I wanted, typically, was the cherry licorice whips (not the black), but those cost a dime a package.

I never figured out saving a nickel one week and doing without so I could get the licorice whips the next week. At five, six, seven, eight years old the idea didn't stick in my head.

I saw oh, "Dondi", the original "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (tacky sci-fi by today's standards, but it did get turned into a TV show, and made the transition to Color TV, about the same time as "Gilligan's Island"), one or another Santa Claus movie around Christmas time, the various "Lassie" movies, and many, many others. Most movies didn't catch my attention that much, but since it was a movie it was special.

Really special movies were things like: "The Three Lives of Thomasina," "The Sword in the Stone" and "The Absent-Minded Professor."

And any of you are bristling about all of those being Disney movies, remember how old I was, please.

I was about seven years old when "Thomasina" hit the theater, and my toy kitten was promptly renamed "Thomasina" in honor. I cried when the little girl's cat was hurt, seemingly dead, and very glad when she (the cat) started her next life. The next time I saw the movie was decades later, with my own little girl. I cried again, but for different, more adult reasons. Say what you will, Walt Disney knew how to tell a story that got your attention.

"Mary Poppins" was one such story. I hadn't gotten to see it when it first came out. It was a Special (about fifty cents or more) for-the-evening showing, we were busy, money was tight, and we were going to move to Colorado soon. I didn't appreciate all of that, so I was disappointed when "Mary Poppins" was replaced by "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

But, I did get the soundtrack record.

Seeing the movies years later, I, as an adult, noticed things like a slightly younger Jane and Michael Banks were the little girl and one of her friends in "Thomasina". Mr. Banks had been the street corner vendor/magician teacher in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks", and I think Michael Banks had been the little boy in that movie as well.
Watching Mary Poppins with the newest tow-headed member of the family, I got to see the story-telling all over again, with enough time to help me forget and make it new again, and with my grown-up perspective.

Folks, I'll say it now, and I'll say it again: don't just drop your kids off at these "kid's movies." Watch the movie with them. This does many things: it helps you bond with your child (believe me, we can ALL use more bonding), if there's a scarey part in the move the ads didn't warn you about (anymore, filmmakers are not as aware of children's and parent's sensibilities as perhaps they should be), you can answer those delicate questions ("I don't know why the Hulk's pants don't rip to shreds like his shirt does, son."). And occasionally, you'll get hit by piece of story-telling intended for you, not your child.

That's what happened last night.

Despite all the movie magic, and glitz, the story was really aimed at the grown-ups, and we see it clearly in the duet between Mr. Banks, the bank officer, and Bert, the chimney sweep. It's summed up by Bert's lyric: "You've got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone/Though childhood slips, like sand through a sieve./Pretty soon they've up and grown, and then they've flown,/And it's to late for you to give."

The little one had slipped off to sleep by then, but I wept bitter tears.

I'll spare you the details of the missed years, missed love given, missed ... well, you get the idea.

I WILL tell you that I have renewed my resolve not to let it happen again. This little one will get the best of my love and attention that I am able to give. Success at any other level takes a backseat to this.

It's not often life gives you second chances. Make the most of them.

Yes, You Can!

P.S. Free plug for Disney (not that they need it): rent, better yet, buy a copy of Mary Poppins and watch it with your kids.

You'll all have fun!

Yes, You Can!

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