Going to the Movie Show was a rare occasion, when I was a little girl. A Show was a big event to look forward to. Dad almost always took us to the show while Mom was in the hospital having a baby. That was one reason I liked getting more kids in the house.
Sometimes I got to go to the Show and no baby was coming. Like Cinderella and Snow White. Then Deanna and Bonita and Vickie and I got all dressed up like Sunday morning and went to the Palace or the Capital theater in the city. Everybody and their brother went to those movies, so we had to get there super early and wait in a line that went clear around the block. For some reason, those Walt Disney movies only seemed to show in the dead of winter, so I had to wear snow-pants under my dress. That way my legs got saved from frost-bite which would ruin the rest of my legs’ lives.
Mom said she was too proud to wear snow-pants once, but that changed after she got stuck waiting for a bus and the bus lines stopped ’cause the river flooded, and all the stores closed and she had to just hunker down in the doorway of that huge department store downtown; the one where the real Santa came, not the helper Santa that was at the other stores. That’s the only way Mom could protect her legs. But ever since that time, her legs ached in the wintertime.
Lots of horrible things happened back in the old day. Like girls underpants had a rubber-band around the waist instead of elastic, and sometimes without any warning, her underpants just fell right down to her ankles. You could be just standing around in line at the bank, and woopsie, panties on the floor. There was no pretending it was somebody else, either; like when I looked all innocent when it was me who blew a big loud stinker, and if anybody said anything, I just said, “Whoever smelt it, dealt it.” Those underpants were just laying there all tangled up in the girl’s shoes. Mom knew somebody whose underpants fell right down while she was walking down the sidewalk in the city. That friend just stopped, picked her panties up, and kept on a-walking with her head held high, like it was the most natural thing in the world. I wished I knew that lady, ’cause I wanted know how she learned to be so brave. I wanted to be like that, just walking along, like everything I did was perfectly okay, and never-minding what anybody else thought.
Anyways, Deanna loved Sleeping Beauty. I did to except when the dwarfs chased the queen-turned-into-an-old-hag off the cliff. I wished they would have captured her and gave he a good talking to and got to the bottom of the story. Instead, the hag was dead, and the dwarfs were way sadder than they needed to be ’cause Cinderella was just in a deep sleep, not dead. Bonita loved Bambi and cried at the end. She shouted out, “Run Bambi,” when the forest fire was burning everything in sight. I liked the part where the pheasants were waiting, waiting, trying not to fly, ’cause I came upon pheasants in the field sometime when I was out there exploring, then all of a sudden, whoosh: a pheasant flying, right up in my face. I knew just how they felt before they flew, ’cause that’s the way I felt right after they flew up in my face. Eechtchee.
Most of the time, when Dad took us to the Show, it was about cowboys and wagon trains, and Indians. We were usually late getting there, ’cause somebody’s shoes or hat always came up missing, which meant a mad search just when it was time to leave. By the time we got there, the theater was dark and quiet except for the movie. It was kind of like getting to church late, but instead of incense, the smell of butter popcorn mixed with what smelled kinda like a diaper-pail filled with Ivory Snow and a week’s worth of wet diapers, which made my nose want to open up and close down all at the same time. I had to remind myself not to genuflect before going into the seats.
One time the show had a bunch of kissing and hugging with shirts and shoes lying on the floor, right at the beginning. Kissing usually happened at the very end of a Cowboy show and cowboy shirts stayed on; that’s why I remember this one, ’cause it was all up front and way more kissing than usual. I saw Mom and Dad kiss like that everyday before Dad went to work, and as soon as he got home, but they kept their shirts on, like most cowboys do. Deanna’s eyes got all big and round and her jaw got loose like she was asleep with her eyes open. Vickie just sat there on Dad’s lap sucking her two middle fingers and twiddling the back of Dad’s hair while Dad kept getting lower and lower in his seat, and pressed his eyes tight shut, with one palm squeezing the back of his neck; same as he looked when he had a bad headache driving to our camping trips. Bonita and I shot at each other with finger guns, waiting for the action to get going.
“Psstt,” Dad poked me in the ribs. “Let’s go.”
“The show’s just started.” I said, sticking in my seat and just looking at him. Bonita was already up on her feet, scootching toward Dad’s fingers wiggling at us on the end of his arm.
“Now.” Dad whispered at me, with his eyes pulled into slits. Dads know how to yell, even when they’re whispering, so I high-tailed it out of my seat. I got so discombobulated I forgot to remind myself I was in the movie theater and I genuflected like I was going out of church. I was always coming close to doing that, but I usually stopped myself. I could feel the red creeping up my neck.
“Why do we have to go?” I tried to whisper, but my voice came out a little whiney.
“Shhhhtt,” Dad came as close to saying “shut up” as I ever remember, and even though his mouth didn’t really say it, his eyes said ‘Shut Up’ in a great big shout, so I let him have his way this time, and kept my questions for later-on.
Mom told me years later that Dad forgot to check the Catholic Weekly for the Show ratings. The Catholic church rated that western “Condemned”, which is about equivalent to “X” rated by today’s standards. Dad was mortified. There he was with four little girls in a Condemned movie, trying to sneak out, unseen, with one little girl insisting on knowing why, in a voice that seemed to turn every head his way. The cruelty of Snow White had more impact on me than that forbidden western. As for Dad, although he was an expert at creating embarrassing situations, I guess he never did learn to just walk along, like everything was perfectly okay, and never-minding what anybody else thought when it was he who with the red face. Me neither.