“Mama, I really want to see the movie, but if the next theater is sold out too, we could just take da train!” This was my daughter coping with disappointment. Her little face fell yesterday as I slowly comprehended and then explained that our race to the theater to see her first movie ever in a theater was for naught as the movie was sold out. While she mulled gloomily over this news, the smell of popcorn wafting in through the doors, I called my husband, at home with our napping toddler, so we could do simultaneous web searches for an alternative. On his advice, I decided to take her to a theater in Cambridge so run-down and neglected that I’d vowed never to go there again. “I don’t know if you’ll like this, honey – it’s not a theater that I think is that great.”
“Oh mama,” she said breathlessly as she trotted alongside me back to the car, “I’ve never been in a theater so it is OK if it is not as good – for me it is still good!” There was my just-turned-5-year-old again bearing her resilience.
“And we could always take the train!” “You don’t want to go to the movie?” “Oh, I do, I really want to go Mama, and I want us to go to another theater to find it…but if that one is sold out too and we can’t go today, we can just take a train ride.” She was reassuring me, squeezing my hand, offering another special thing we could do with a rare girls’ afternoon out.
We bought the tickets, hung around for an hour, and finally made it into the run-down theater (now with new ownership and new seats, thank goodness). She was too little to sit in the seats and still see the screen. But that was OK too. “I’ll just sit in your lap Mama” she declared after trying out seats in the back ten rows as I watched her silently from my seat in the middle of the theater. She’d already explained her calculus on rejecting the front half of the theater – “then I’ll have to look too far up” – so I knew she was busy calculating the gradient of the floor and the height of the seats. Oh, and people in them. I’d told her she could see from her seat just fine, but she’d accurately predicted the challenges of the future state “I can see now Mama but not when people come and sit in the seats.”
She sat bolt upright on my lap the whole time, full of laughs. The 30s-era Mickey Mouse cartoon made her laugh more than anything. But when the movie ("Frozen") started, she was immersed in it. Later on the car ride home, she said “Mama when I watched the movie, I felt like I was IN the movie!”
From her early questions “Why do dey call it a movie if you just sit dere?” “Well, people in pictures didn’t used to MOVE…” to her blissful smile as we left the theater to her gentle correction of my misworded recitation of a joke in the movie “Yeah, that was SO so funny…he said ‘I like it even more now!’” I was reminded of what it is like to experience something whole for the first time. Wholly new. And what a joy to be with someone so inquisitive, so alive, that every artistic, mathematical, or process experience in front of her is open to question. But the best part is, she's always got a way to make things work out.