McGinnis: How a trip to the movies took me back in timeWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
had one of the most wonderful moviegoing experiences of my life recently. It had little to do with the film in question, “Despicable Me 2,” which was an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable family flick. The joy came from who I saw the movie with — my beloved nieces, Kadence and Kendra.
This wasn’t quite the first film they had seen — 4-year-old Kadence (known affectionately among the family as “KK”) has been to movies a few times, while Kendra, at 2, had been to a theater before but had yet to reach that crucial stage where she lasted through the entire feature. Both of my nieces are at that age where remaining still for a few hours is an impossibility. (For my brother and I, this state lasted until graduation.)
This was, however, the first time that Uncle Jeff had been along for the trip to the theater. I knew going in that it would be a challenge for the girls to sit still for any period of time — I half expected this trip to the movies to be an extended game of hide-and-seek. Still, I relish every chance I get to spend time with them, and I was really looking forward to the show. I was not expecting the experience to be the trip down memory lane that it was.
As we sat and watched the film, my attention was equally divided between the events unfolding onscreen and the reaction of the two young critics beside me. As expected, they didn’t exactly sit still for the experience, but they weren’t inattentive, either. Even as both of them found reasons to wander up and down the row we were in, their gazes never wavered far from the movie in front of them. They were engaged, interested, entertained, having fun.
At one point, when the dastardly villain’s master plan was going into full effect, Kadence got a little scared and turned to hug me in response. As I looked down and assured her it’d be all right, I felt a powerful wave of nostalgia pass over me. Suddenly, I wasn’t in 2013 anymore.
It was 1980. I was 3. I had just been taken to see “Popeye” by someone — my aunt, maybe? I couldn’t remember anything of the actual experience of seeing the movie, only a fleeting glimpse of the credits as we departed. I’m sure I had been taken to the theater before, but this was the first trip that left an impression on my memory. And how many can say their first movie was a Robert Altman film?
It was 1982. My church’s youth group had organized one of its many trips to see “E.T.” I know I accompanied them and my parents to the film more than once. The image of the scary men’s flashlights sweeping around the forest searching for the scared little alien would be the next moment added to a lifetime of images at the cinema.
It was 1983. My parents took me to see “Return of the Jedi” for what had to be the second or third time. I remember the feeling of joy surrounding me, a theater full of people watching with the same wide-eyed attention and wonder that I was. I was so terrified of the Emperor, I would turn in my seat whenever he appeared on screen — just as Kadence would years later. The theater burst into cheers when Darth Vader finally saved his son, and then came wild applause when the film, and the saga, had ended — just as Kadence and Kendra applauded when their movie ended.
It was 2013. I looked down at my two nieces as they glowed with an innocent wonder that I hope will never diminish with age. And I thought, this is what the movies can be. A living connection to those moments of our childhood where the grandeur of larger-than-life people and events forever make an imprint on who we are. And every time we return to that darkened theater — no matter where, no matter the film — we are tapping into a lifetime of experiences that begin with our earliest recollections and continue to present day.
The places I took those first steps into the cinema — Southwyck Mall, Showcase Cinemas on Secor Road, the Fox Theater at Woodville Mall — they’re all gone now. But the memories of each will remain for the rest of my days. And I can’t wait to carve out new memories with each trip to the big screen — hopefully with those same two young critics in tow.
Email Toledo Free Press Star Pop Culture Editor Jeff McGinnis at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.
Tags: Jeff McGinnis