Tonight our family went to the drive-in cinema for the first time. Well, a first for the kids anyway. I spent many summer nights at the drive-in with my family when I was growing up in the 80’s. The funny thing is, nothing has changed. (Well, except for the way the sound plays from your car stereo instead of those clunky metal boxes that used to sit in your window). Seriously. Same 1960’s space-age snack bar. Same stale popcorn. Even the playground was still there, where my brother, sister and I used to play on the old metal slide and swing on the swingset. Who cared about watching a movie when we could swing in a dark playground at night, pretending to touch the stars with our toes? Family movie nights at the drive-in were the best thing ever.
Of course, that’s nostalgia for you. In reality, the drive-in movie screen seemed so small from where we were parked, I’m pretty sure we could have seen a clearer picture on our living room TV screen. And maybe the sound was better on the stereo, but here is what it actually sounded like inside of our minivan:
Child 1: Can we open the windows? It’s too hot!
Child 2: No, I’m cold!
Child 3: I can’t reach the popcorn way back there.
Child 1: The stereo’s too loud.
Child 3: This movie’s boring. Can I go play on the playground?
So much for family movie nights at the drive-in. Maybe it would have been more fun if we’d been more prepared, like the drive-in cinema veterans, who were camped out in the parking lot in folding chairs, drinking cold drinks from their coolers while their kids entertained themselves with glowsticks. Or even better, maybe the drive-in is best suited for young lovers, taking advantage of the dark parking lot by making out in the backseat. (Hmm…that’s an experience I missed out on. Could be fun).
“So guys, what did you think about the drive-in movies?” I asked as were were driving home late at night.
Child 1: It was great!
Child 2: I liked it better than a movie theatre, because we could still talk during the movie.
Child 3 (in a very sleepy voice): That was awesome!
Huh. So maybe when you’re a kid, no matter how crummy the movie or how tiny the screen, or how stale the popcorn, there is something about being gathered with your family, watching movies on a big outdoor screen, that gives the drive-in cinema a kind of magic. And maybe when my kids are grown-up, they will look back with nostalgia at the space-age snack bar and nighttime playground and remember family movie nights at the drive-in as the best thing ever.