Trips to the movie theater aren’t always picture-perfect

Atmy grandparents’ funeral service, my dad was asked to share a childhood memory. He recounted a time when his parents had taken him and his five siblings (including two toddlers and a baby) to the drive-in movies to see Fellini’s “La Strada.” My dad sat in the back of the station wagon, reading the subtitles. He was 9 years old.

It’s not so surprising that my grandparents would’ve wanted to see “La Strada.” It’s the story of a very poor but feisty woman. My grandparents were poor and feisty. The woman becomes part of a two-bit traveling sideshow act. My grandparents were carnival workers — you know, carnies. My dad and my aunts and uncles grew up on the carnival circuit. So I guess “La Strada” makes sense. Still, a foreign film at the drive-in? With six children? Really?

When my daughter was 3, “Elmo’s Adventures in Grouchland” came out, and all the preschoolers were going to see it. So we decided it was time for baby’s first movie. Oh boy, I was excited. “We’re going to see ‘Elmo in Grouchland,'” I declared. “What’s that?” she asked. “It’s a movie. We’re going to see it at a movie theater.” “What’s that?” “It’s a place where you go to watch movies on a really big TV screen … in a dark room with a lot of people … who we won’t know … and we have to be quiet … and there’s no pausing the movie … there’ll be popcorn.”

“Why are we doing that?”

“It’ll be fun”

And so, despite a skeptical look from my child, off we went. We had just finished the previews and “Elmo’s Adventures in Grouchland” was beginning when my daughter whispered “Can we go to that other room?”

“No, the other room is playing a grown-up movie.”

“I mean, the room with the video games and the candy.”

“You mean the lobby?”

“Yes, can we go back to the lobby?”

And that was that. Maybe we should’ve started with “La Strada.”