On second thought, no it didn’t.
As part of our ongoing efforts to establish some Christmas traditions, Cassie and I took Boogieface and The Animal, to The Strand Theater for a matinee showing of one of my favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We knew my 4-year-old daughter would like the movie, because it features one of her favorite songs. As for my son, well, since television usually puts him into a calm, sedated, zombie-like state, we figured the large movie screen would only amplify the effect.
We strategically selected seats up in the balcony in order to distance ourselves from the crowd. But the theater soon filled up, and we found ourselves hemmed in on every side, with no easy escape route.
As the opening credits rolled on the screen, my kids’ eyes locked onto the bright rectangle before them, and I crossed my fingers.
For a while things were fine. Boogs sat quietly at my side, sipping on her Sierra Mist; The Animal too seemed content, resting in the warmth of a mother’s embrace. But then, just as George and Mary Charlestoned their way into the high school swimming pool, my son’s hound-dog-like olfactory system detected the scent of food.
“Want popcorn?!” he said loudly, in his typical request/demand style. Cassie and I exchanged glances, and I immediately understood my mission: Get popcorn—STAT! By the time Donna Reed was hiding within the hydrangeas, I was back with two bags, which I hoped would keep the little guy busy for a while.
But we both knew the time bomb was ticking.
Then, just as the “run” began on the Bailey Building and Loan, ironically, my son felt a sudden urge to run himself. Having devoured both bags of popcorn, he was now re-energized and restless. After squirming free of Cassie’s grasp, he tried to escape down her end of the aisle but was stopped by her leg. Without hesitation, he made a break for my side and met the same obstruction. He was trapped. Or so we thought.
Just as George and Mary shared an emotional embrace in their soggy honeymoon suite, my son barked something unintelligible, which echoed throughout the theater. It sounded like the noise that the raptors make in “Jurassic Park” when they’re calling the others to come in for the kill.
I could feel the vexation of my fellow moviegoers as they glared in our direction, so I scooped up my boy and made a beeline for the nearest exit. But soon, after chasing The Animal back and forth from the rear-exit stairway to the water fountains and back several times, I decided I had to find another way to wait out the movie.
So out into the blustery December night we went, my son in his cozy winter coat; me in my flimsy zip-up sweatshirt. My coat was in my car, and the keys, of course, were up in the balcony with my wife. And since there’s no way we could go back in – literally, the door locked behind us – I would have to just tough it out, which is something I’m not very good at.
For the next hour or so, The Animal happily hopped down Zelienople’s main thoroughfare peering in the windows of the town’s stores, which were all closed for the night. Meanwhile I played border collie, trying to keep him from darting out into the street. At one point, he climbed up onto a porch, stuck his head through the railing, and said to me, “Want ice cream?” I thought he was pretty darn cute, so I played along. “Sure!” I said. “I’ll take some.” Two seconds later he returned with my “ice cream”: a dirty ash tray.
After the movie, Cass and Boogs, warmed both inside and out from the holiday classic, found us across the street in an Italian restaurant, where I was attempting to defrost with a glass of cheap red wine. For the moment, my son was calm, his attention held by a Grover picture book he was reading on my iPhone, which, by the way, he was smearing with ketchup-covered, French-fry-greasy fingers.
But despite being cold and tired and frustrated, and besides having to woof down my dinner while defending myself and the other patrons from flying salt shakers and other toddler-powered projectiles, I have to admit, it really is a wonderful life.
Just next time I think we’ll rent the DVD.