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Drive-in

06/18/2013 @ 7:40am

I have some memories of drive-in movie theatres, but I haven’t been to one in years.

Times change.

Friday morning my wife said, “The kids invited us to come to the drive-in movie with them.”

“The kids” are the three-fourths of our grandchildren, who live in Redfield, South Dakota. There’s still a drive-in theater there, and since they are ages 4, 5, and 6, going to a movie that is not only outside but also doesn’t start until 10:00 p.m. and gets over at midnight is an exciting enterprise. It didn’t seem like the sort of thing I’d want to miss.

Of course, I do get up around 5:00 a.m. every day, and it’s about a 2 1/2-hour drive home after the movie, so deciding to go required some thought. In the end, I just couldn’t resist the offer.

I was up at my usual time to open the café. I had some guest chefs coming in for the day, and shortly before closing I was chatting with the mother of one of them. My wife came over and asked, “So, did you yell at Charlie today?”

“I did not,” I said. I explained to Charlie’s mother that, occasionally, in the past, when there’s been something of importance going on, a certain tone that implies a sense of urgency may have crept into my voice, and there are people who interpret that as yelling. This morning there had been no yelling, although there may have been a slight sense of urgency in my voice when I advised Charlie that he shouldn’t use the metal spatula on the nonstick omelet pan.

But there was no yelling.

Anyway, with all the extra help, we were soon on our way to the grandchildren. We hung out all afternoon, taking walks and watching them ride their bikes, followed by hamburgers and fresh potato salad. Since there were no naps AND the movie didn’t start until two hours past their bedtime, everyone watched the emotional climate pretty carefully. Around dusk we loaded their minivan with blankets, pillows, and some popcorn and headed off for the drive-in.

My son-in-law parked with the back end of the minivan facing the screen. They cleverly folded down the back row of seats and arranged pillows and blankets into what can only be described as a nest. My wife and I were to share the nest in comfort with the grandchildren while our daughter and son-in-law “lounged” on the ground. My daughter had the kids run wind sprints and do jumping jacks until the movie was about to begin.

Yes. She really did. Smart woman.

All five of us settled into more or less comfortable positions as darkness deepened and the projector started. Sadly, it wasn’t the movie, but the 20 minutes of ads and previews that precede a movie. The little guy snapped. He’d been so good for so long and then he just started to vibrate like a tuning fork run amok. The blanket was smothering his legs, the pillow wasn’t comfortable, the popcorn… oops, the popcorn went flying. You know those movies where people are stuck in an enclosed space with a powerful bomb and the timer is counting down to zero? It was just like that. My wife couldn’t stand the suspense, so she climbed out and joined the adults sitting on the ground; I hung in there. I admit that once or twice, the tone that implies a sense of urgency threatened to erupt, but I kept it in check. And, when the movie finally did start, the kids were completely entranced. They listened, behaved, stayed awake, laughed in the right places . . . it was all good.

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