My brother and I spent some time together on the day after Christmas, eating sushi and driving by old ex-movie theaters (more on this another time) and listening to selections from the eclectic CD collection strewn throughout his car. We even stopped at Lakeside Mall and I caught a glimpse of the hoilday train setup with the little village that had blue FEMA roofs.
We got back to my parents’ house to discover that my dad was watching my nephew, who is about 3.5 years old. Usually he is a very active, mischievous child, but he was lying on the sofa near the TV. My dad was semi-napping in a nearby recliner, and Madagascar was playing on the TV screen. My dad has three primary methods of babysitting: take the child shopping, feed the child, put a movie on TV for the child. I can’t argue.
But here’s the thing: I don’t ever watch movies at my parents’ house, at all, unless they are movies I have seen before or I am watching them very late at night after nearly everyone is in bed. It is impossible to focus on a movie in their living room. Someone always tries to start a conversation, or runs the vacuum, or asks 20 questions about the movie and who is in it and what is going on, usually during a critically important scene. If you want to actually watch an entire movie, you will only get frustrated. My baby brother snapped at my parents a few days earlier because he was dying to watch the end of Land of the Dead and they wouldn’t leave him the hell alone. He should have known better, but he no longer had a TV in his bedroom (actually, as of this writing he currently has no bedroom at all in my parents’ house, but that’s another story) and he was so busy during the semester with graduation prep and ballet and theater work that he didn’t have time to sit and watch this film by one of his favorite directors, George A. Romero.
So here we have a 3.5-year-old on the sofa with Madagascar on, but he’s just a toddler, right? They don’t really watch movies for very long. My dad almost certainly put on the movie in an attempt to get the child to nap. I figured the kid was getting bored and asked him what he was watching and a few other minor questions. In fact, I walked over to the sofa to talk to him, because I hardly ever get to see my nephew.
He ignored me and scooted further up the sofa, closer to the TV. I figured he didn’t know me very well and wanted to ignore me. Well, all right.
But then I noticed my dad kept asking the kid questions and making comments directed at him, continually. “Look at that lion! What do you think he’s going to do next?” “Wasn’t that zebra funny?” “Tell your aunt where we had lunch today.” “Guess who’s coming over tonight?” You get the idea.
The little boy moved closer and closer to the end of the sofa, and I suddenly felt deep sympathy for him. He wanted to find out what would happen with the lion and the hippo and the funny zebra. He was a little too young to shout at my dad to leave him alone, but he tried his best to tune us all out. All he wanted was to watch his movie in peace.
Furthermore, my dad tried to turn off the movie before it was over, because he decided it was probably time to call my brother to pick up his son. That did it … my nephew got upset and nearly pitched a fit until my dad put the movie back on so he could watch the end. Would you do this to a grown-up? It seemed almost cruel.
I have never felt so close to that child in my life. And, poor little boy, he and his family are moving in with my parents for the next two or three months, until their new house is ready (which is why my baby brother has no room in the house). Not to mention that my nephew has a little sister, two years younger than he is. Will he ever get to watch a movie in peace? I wish I could give him a big hug and take him home to Austin and show him Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc. without interruptions. I can’t resist the idea of encouraging a potential film geek.