I’m pretty sure the first movie I ever saw was 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was 1968 and my parents took me along when they went to see it at the drive-in. I was only four, but I remember it like it was yesterday. They had a station wagon and set the back seat up for me like a little nest: several pillows and lots of blankets, and I was in my pajamas from the start. That way if I fell asleep I was good to go. There was more popcorn than a little guy could eat and the biggest screen in the world. And the apes at the beginning scared me when they got angry. I didn’t understand the movie but it captured me, probably dropping one of the anchors into me that ultimately made me a science fiction fan.
My son is the same age now as I was then, and last night we took him to his first drive-in. We saw this year’s release of Puss ‘n Boots. Admittedly it’s not as heady as Kubrick’s flick, but that’s OK. The station wagon of my youth became a Saturn Vue for Paul, but the nest of pillows and blankets was there right along with the large bucket of popcorn. And better than when I was a kid, the metal brick of a speaker hanging on the glass window was replaced by an FM broadcast we could listen to over the car’s stereo.
My wife and I are both drive-in fans, having frequented them when we were dating dating in Colorado, then into the early years of our marriage. Until moving here to Las Vegas, the last time we lived anywhere with a drive-in was just outside of Sacramento, California. (Hooray for the western states, for preserving these amazing icons of our American culture!) When we found out there was a drive-in here, we knew we had to go, and had to expose our son to the experience. So off we went last night, and we had a blast!
Paul gobbled popcorn and juice, and late in the movie we made one trip to the bathroom at which point he discovered the playground and had to take a few trips down the slide. Then back to the car for more movie, intermission, and...sleep. He fell asleep shortly after the second feature (Real Steel) began and we bundled him up in his backseat nest where he slept for the rest of the show.
I don’t know if he’ll remember this the same way I remember my first drive-in experience. The movie was certainly a part of it, but what I think made it stick the most was how new and cool the whole experience seemed. I’m thankful Steph and I had the chance to share this part of our own childhood, and one of the things we remain very fond of as adults, with our son. Who knows, maybe if we’re lucky, years from now we’ll hear him tell us he’s taking his date to the drive-in, and Steph and I will smile just a little bit bigger than usual.
It’s great to be a dad!