14 No More Children's Tickets
I have loved movies since I was a child. Every Sunday, I went to the Monroe Theater to enjoy a movie there. Then in 1970 I turned ten, and my tastes turned from Disney movies to more mature ones. Still, I was precluded from seeing R-rated movies .
All at one,commercials appeared on TV for The French Connection . They looked exciting, streetwise , and very powerful. This was going to be a man's movie. And I was going to miss out, because I wasn't old enough. I can remember when my dad and older brother went to see it, stepping into the freezing night calling, "We'll be back later," Peter running ahead of my father in anticipation .
The French Connection broke new ground . The car chase was daring,edgy and thrilling, like nothing ever seen before. And this made me long to see it. Gene Hackman's portrayal of Popeye Doyle was far from the kind of cop that audiences were used to seeing. I was a movie fanatic , and I felt I was missing out on something historical, daring and new. Peter was thrilled to be seeing it. I, however, was relegated to another dreary night at home with my mom and my younger brother, Steven.
When Peter and my dad got home, they expressed what I already knew. The movie was great. They talked about the car chase. "Unbelievable!" Hackman was "fantastic!" Oh, how I wished I were older and could ...
You want to go see it, Leonard?
Was that my father who just said that? Did I hear right? Confirmation came in a second , from my mother.
Ed, do you really think he should see it? Oh Mom, don't kill my chances. Don't plant the seed of doubt. Be quiet for just a little longer until I can extract a promise. Then the sweet words came.
I don't see why not. I think he's old enough to handle it. We can go tomorrow night.
But you just went with Peter tonight. You're going to go again tomorrow?
My dad looked over at me. He must have seen my eyes, filled with excitement and anticipation.
Sure, why not? he said.
Yeah! I cried and leapt into the air.
The next night I could hardly eat my dinner. I couldn't wait to get out of the house and see something that I had thought only my elder brother would be allowed to see.
Leonard, if you don't eat something, you're going to be hungry at the movies, he said, smiling.
There it was again-confirmation of the event. Yes, we were actually going to see this R-rated movie together. It would be my first one. At last, dinner was over. We got our winter coats and stepped to the front door. My dad grinned , tossed his head back and called out, "We'll be back later."
Okay, said my mom, "have fun." I was so thrilled. Now it was Peter's turn to stay home with Mom and Steven.
We got into the car. It was freezing. My dad's cologne gently enveloped me, and the car warmed as the heater kicked in . I could feel his love for me. Even though he had just seen the movie the night before, he was going to take me tonight. He didn't even wait for a few weeks. I was impressed and felt special.
The Monroe Theater was big and smelled of heat, popcorn and seat cloth. Back then, anyone under age twelve couldn't get into an R-rated movie. I looked older than I was, and my dad paid the extra money so we wouldn't have any trouble from the ticket lady. I was thrilled that my father thought I was mature enough to see an R-rated movie and that he had no problem saying, "Two adults, please," when buying our tickets.
The French Connection was better than I had anticipated. It was the most exciting movie I'd ever seen, and the most adult.
As we walked up the steps at home after the movie, I turned to my dad and really looked at him. I wanted him to know how happy he'd made me, how wonderful it was to believe he thought of me as an adult (at least in some way). But all I could come up with was, "Thanks for taking me, Dad."
He hugged me, his big arms wrapping me tightly, and held me for just a little longer than usual. Cologne never smelled so sweet.
Oh, my pleasure, he said, "my pleasure!"
And it was.
After that, we went to the movies together all the time. The R-rating lost its importance and was no longer considered a sticking point . I had seen one and could now see all of them. My rite of passage was over. But when I was fifteen, things changed a bit and I went to the movies with my friends more than with my dad.
In 1975, Peter and I, and my two friends waited in line for two hours (this was very unusual back then!) to see Jaws . I went home raving about it. What a fantastic movie! I could see my father wishing he had been allowed to go with the teenagers to see this "event," because there was no way my mother was going to go with him and he certainly wouldn't see it by himself. But he was the parent now. Teenagers don't really want their parents around when going to the movies as a group.
Hey, Dad, I said. "You wanna go see it?"
He seemed a little surprised. He hesitated, knowing how his place had changed, but said, "Well, yes. I'd love to."
Okay, we'll go. Tomorrow night. Just you and me.
Terrific, he said, turning away so I couldn't see him smiling from ear to ear .
The next night we waited in line for two hours to see Jaws. And this time, it was my pleasure to "take" my father to the movies. My pleasure.
(By Lenny Grossman)