I don’t think I ever got over the fact that I didn’t get to see Bambi as a child. I was about 5 or 6 when my mom, aunt, sister and cousin all went to the movies to see it…without me. It was a very big deal that we were all planning to go together, with a lot of excitement building up among us kids for over a week. The day finally arrived, and it turned out that I had to stay home because I was sick–every illness I ever had as a child made me throw up, so I guess they weren’t taking any chances. I remember lying in bed, crying and pouting…little did I know that I would spend a lifetime not having the context for all of the cultural references attributed to the poor little deer’s mama getting shot…not to mention never understanding why people like Thumper so much. Oh sure, ‘just rent it’ you’re thinking…sorry, but it’s just not the same.
My next significant movie memory involves my mother. (As it turns out, quite a few of them do.) She and her cousin took me with them when I was about 9 to see a Blake Edwards movie called The Party, starring Peter Sellers. I don’t really remember anything about the movie itself, but I do have memories of my mother not being sure I was old enough to be there…and of her laughing so loud that I was embarrassed by it. (There are also stories of Mama laughing so loud at a screening of The Apple Dumpling Gang that everyone was afraid they’d be kicked out of the theater…but I didn’t witness that one, so we’ll just acknowledge it and move on.)
My next big Mama movie moment was when she took me, my sister and my best friend to see Jaws right after it opened. It was the summer after my sophomore year in high school, and there were still long lines for the blockbuster that everyone just had to see. We waited outside the theater for over an hour, and when we finally got in, the place was so crowded that the only three seats together were on the second row. In case you’ve ever wondered…those seats suck…you have to crane your neck to see, and things are just a bit distorted. Mama had the seat at the far right end of the row, next to the aisle, and I was next to her. Everything was going just fine…for a while. We ate our popcorn, flinched and squealed when we were supposed to, and were generally having a good time. And then, when we least expected it, along came that scene where Richard Dreyfuss is diving, examining the bottom of Ben’s boat and…BAM…out pops Ben’s dead, nasty-eye’d head! Everyone in the theater screamed, of course…hell, I screamed when I watched it on YouTube a few minutes ago, and I knew it was coming! The audience was catching its breath after that scary moment when I felt Mama tapping me on the arm. I ‘shhhhh’d’ her and kept watching. A few seconds passed and she tapped again…this time with a little more energy. I looked to my right and saw that she was holding on to the arm of the theater seat… but it was no longer attached to anything! My (apparently) superhuman mama had gotten so startled by Ben’s extra-large, 2nd row version head jumping out at her that she pulled the arm right off of the movie seat and was gingerly holding it up for me to see! I tried not to laugh out loud…she looked so pitiful that I thought she might start crying. I patted her hand and we collected ourselves, hid the doomed chair arm on the floor near the aisle, giggled, and watched the rest of the movie…praying that we wouldn’t be found out and asked to leave. I swear she kept looking over her right shoulder, expecting some usher to run up and escort her out!
On another occasion, Mama was visiting me here in Portland and we decided to watch Scary Movie on TV. It was a satire that made fun of slasher films, and was pretty goofy. I don’t remember the scene, but something or someone jumped out and scared a bunch of kids…it wasn’t very scary. It didn’t matter to Mama, I guess, because she jumped and screamed right along with the victims in the film…managing to fling a full glass of something all over my living room.
I guess I’d have to say that I’m a little surprised that my mother even made it through to the end of Bambi all those years ago, considering that Time Magazine includes it as #20 in its list of 25 scariest movies of all time. I know she did though, because she quotes Thumper quite a bit. Here’s her favorite:
Something tells me that I might be hearing that very quote in the near future…in a full-on Southern drawl!