Hello from North Haven!
Our February break just ended and my daughter Penrose and I spent four nights of it off island. We spent the first part with my parents and then migrated to Boothbay Harbor and met up with my husband for a few nights with some dear friends.
Off-island trips without an itinerary are rare for us, and we had an entire day without anything on the docket. Bowling was suggested, but then I remembered that back in December, I had harbored a desire to bring Penrose to see Moana in the movie theater. I got influenza instead. But now here we were, in reasonable proximity to not only a movie theater with an 11:30 showing of Disney’s latest, but one that also served food and offered comfortable rolling chairs: Smitty’s Cinema in Topsham.
We got two dogs squared away, two kids and four adults in two vehicles, and set off for what I hoped would be cinematic paradise. This would be Penrose’s first movie theater experience. On North Haven, we get to watch films in the community center’s beautiful theater, with incredibly crisp HD projection and surround sound. But there’s no overpriced popcorn – we can’t even eat in the theater, which is why it remains so beautiful – and films get screened after they’re released on DVD. AND – most importantly to me – there are no toxic blue slush drinks on tap. I only have one once a year, which is about how often we make it to a movie theater, but boy do I love them.
We arrived, after 45 minutes in the car being entertained by the movie theater newbie’s original song “There’s An Airplane Flying Through the Sky” (just those lyrics, for 45 minutes, despite my friend’s encouraging her to find some rhyming words and write another line). Penrose’s eyes lit up at the candy counter, although we decided to wait to order food until we were seated. We found two tables close together, next to an apparent birthday party, and Pen joined me in my giant chair. A server took our order. I briefly considered a salad, or a marginally healthy quesadilla, and instead really got into the spirit of the moment and ordered mozarella sticks, sweet potato fries, popcorn for us all to share, and my coveted blue-of-a-shade-not-found-in-nature slush. Pen got a grilled cheese, fries, and a milk.
I was briefly worried that the giant screen, the booming sound, the potentially scary story would be too much for Pen. At almost three, it’s hard to predict what she’ll love and what she’ll loathe. The Borg, those creepy Star Trek villains, are no problem, but a seemingly benign scene in her favorite movie My Neighbor Totoro has to be fastforwarded. But as she settled in, picking popcorn from the bag like a pro, my fears dissipated. She methodically chewed her grilled cheese, eyes glued to the compelling and gorgeous film. I ate my various fried sticks of things and slurped the blue slush, reveling in my once-a-year (or less!) indulgence.
All went smoothly until the unearthly glow of my drink caught my daughter’s discerning eye. She sweetly, politely, asked for a sip, which I gave her. Immediately, her demeanor changed. She grabbed that cup like Gollum and the one ring, desperately sucking on the straw.
“What is this, Mama,” she asked, in covetous tones. “I want one just like yours.” I declined to order her another. I also declined to remove the lid so she could get to the unnatural nectar more efficiently. She frowned. She cried. I looked furtively around. The birthday party seemed undisturbed – her wails were no match for the singing crab on screen. She yanked the straw out of the cup, inadvertently poking me in the forehead. We arrived at a compromise, moving her milk straw to my cup, which I had now given up for lost. Peace returned to the rolling chair for the remainder of the movie.
Oh well. This was a milestone in the making, her first movie theater experience and her first taste of artificially flavored and colored heaven (and last for at least a year, if I can help it.) Look, we’re vegetarian, we cook from scratch, we eat from a CSA and a co-op order as often as possible. I gloat as Penrose dances down the aisles of the supermarket, yelling “Peppers are my FAVORITE! Cauliflower is my FAVORITE! Kiwi is my FAVORITE! Beans are my FAVORITE!” We exercise, we read, we play outside, we draw. But I want her to get that it’s also ok to let it all go, eat the fried food, and drink the blue slush – every once in a while.
Mission accomplished, milestones achieved.