Bud and I haven't been to a movie theater in years. When he was younger, we tried seeing movies a number of times, but we had mixed success. Movie theaters can be sensory nightmares - surround sound that's too loud, audience members sitting too close, aisles too dark, a screen too bright. There were times we left during the previews, and times we left in the middle of the show. There were often tears. So, after a while, it seemed ridiculous to continue to make tearful efforts in the name of entertainment, and we stopped trying to see movies.
But Bud is a lot older now. He's much better able to advocate for himself and tell me what he needs. A good friend had recommended the movie Inside Out, and I really wanted to see it. I thought that maybe the time was right to try again, and, I reasoned, even if the attempt ended in tears, maybe a movie about emotions would give us a new framework through which we could discuss the way we were feeling about the experience. So I pitched the idea.
Bud thought about it, but didn't respond. I took that as a good sign. Usually, the suggestion that we watch a full-length movie is met with, "I don't think so, Mom."
I suggested he watch the trailer, and he did. Twice.
I told him we could get popcorn.
He watched the trailer again. And then he agreed - not even reluctantly.
We went to the show in the early afternoon and from the time we left the house to the time we entered the theater, I waited for his hesitation, his second thoughts, his panic - but they didn't come.
Bud and I shared a bucket of popcorn and he munched happily through the previews and through what turned out to be a very lengthy animated short.
Then the movie started. Then the popcorn was gone, and I wondered if that would be that. But it wasn't. Bud was engaged. He said "awww" when the baby was born, and he laughed out loud at the funny parts.
A couple of times, during some slower segments, he asked me if the movie was almost over, and I told him it was. And then, suddenly, the screen got darker and the music got lower and I could tell that the obligatory Disney "scary part" was coming.
I leaned over and whispered, "Bud, I have to go to the bathroom. Will you come with me?"
He whispered back, "No, I'll stay here and wait for you."
I waited a few more minutes until things on the screen got a bit more ominous, then I leaned over and whispered again, "Why don't you come to the bathroom with me, and then we'll stop at the snack bar on the way back?"
"Please, Mom," he whispered back, impatiently, "I'm trying to watch the movie."
And soon enough, the scary part was over, and I decided that the bathroom could wait.
It was a beautiful movie. It was about emotions - their complexity, their interplay, and their importance. But it was about so much more than that. It was about growing up and dealing with change and letting go and hanging on. It was about childhood and parenthood and empathy and love.
With themes like that, so universal, and yet so deeply personal, with ideas and images that hit so close to the heart, it was no surprise that there were tears before this movie ended as well. But this time, the tears played out differently.
This time, the tears were met with this:
"Mom, are you - are you crying, Mom?"
And then this:
"Aw, Mom, it's okay. Don't worry. It's only a movie."
And then this:
"Mom, don't you think you should blow your nose?"
And then this:
"Why are you crying and laughing at the same time?"
It really was a beautiful movie.
Tears and all.