There is magic in movies

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

There was an article in the Wilmington News Journal last week about the 30th anniversary of the release of the Disney movie, “The Little Mermaid.” It brought back a magical memory. That is one of the things a good movie should do – create magical memories.

At the time, my daughter Jessica was only six years old. She had only seen a few Disney movies before and was excited about seeing the Little Mermaid become a real girl.

So, we headed out Rombach Avenue to the local movie house. We sat near the middle of the theater, on the far-right side. Jessi wanted to sit near the wall, so I slid in beside her with our jumbo bucket of popcorn and two soft drinks.

It was pure Disney magic. Jessi was enchanted by Ariel, the songs, the music, the humor and the magical life that was shown beneath and above the sea. She loved it all.

At least she loved it until Ursula, the wicked sea-witch turned the ocean into an evil hurricane of wind, waves and violence.

I could tell that Jessi was getting scared. I put my arm around her and tried to comfort her by saying, “It’s OK, honey. It’s only a movie. In fact, it’s only a cartoon.”

That made no difference to my little girl. She was scared. Later, we talked about it and laughed, but at the time, Jessi was totally wrapped up in the exciting climax of the movie.

In a short period of time, Disney had my daughter laughing, thrilled, happy, scared, thrilled again, frightened to the point of tears and, finally, laughing and happy again. Pure movie magic.

I have always loved movies. As a youngster in Germantown, our parents would allow my older sister, Belinda, and me to go downtown alone to watch a movie at the little By-Jo Theatre. We could take our weekly allowance of 50 cents, pay our admission, get a soft drink and small popcorn and still have 10 cents left over.

Miracles were shown on the screen when Moses struggled to get the pharaoh to release the Israelites in the movie “The Ten Commandments.” Then Moses stood on the banks of the Red Sea, held his staff above his head and parted the waters.

A few years later, a suspiciously Moses-looking Ben-Hur raced his chariot against the evil Massala. It was an amazing race. Sixty years later, I still love watching it.

Good movies have always been a treat to enjoy but sharing a good movie with someone you love takes movie-magic to a whole new level.

Several years ago, Debbie and I went to our granddaughter Taryn’s birthday party. Taryn was born in January, so I decided that would be a good time to start a new birthday tradition.

We sang. We had cake and ice cream. Taryn opened all the presents that had been brought by her friends and family. When she was finished and the wrapping paper had finally settled to the ground, I asked if she saw my present.

She said, “No, Pappy. What did you get me?” I answered, “Nothing.”

Her pretty little face froze in an irritated scowl. She asked, “What?”

I said, “Here’s the deal. You and I are going to a movie. We’ll go to any movie you want to see. We’ll get popcorn, candy and a soft drink and afterwards… ice cream. Just you and me. How’s that sound?” The scowl quickly became a grin.

She picked a movie. We set a date and, according to Jessi, that was all she talked about for the next few weeks.

We had an absolute ball. We giggled and laughed. Of course, this was the kind of gift that I got as much out of as Taryn. We got to spend an evening together – just Pappy and Taryn. What a joy.

Since then, it has become a tradition with every grandchild. On their birthday, we decide on a movie. Later, we drive wherever we need to go to get to the right theater. Lately, we’ve gone to the fancy theaters with the recliner seats. Nice.

In September of 2017, Danni Grace and I went to see “The Greatest Showman.” It blew us away. We left the theater singing the songs we had just heard. I told Debbie and our kids about it. We decided we needed a “Movie Night” at Memaw and Pappy’s house.

As soon as “The Greatest Showman” came out on DVD, we were ready. All of our children and grandchildren came over. Chairs and sofas were rearranged. A mattress pad was brought down for the grandkids. We had clown noses, theater-style popcorn and nachos, hot dogs and a wide variety of drinks for children and adults. It was a great party.

This week were going to do it again. This time it will be “Aquaman.” We’ll have fish sticks, specially cooked hot dogs that will look like tiny octopi. Everyone will get their special Aquaman drinking glass and I’ll have a squirt gun and bubbles ready so they can actually feel the waves whenever Aquaman makes a splash.

Ahh… the creation of more magical movie memories at Memaw and Pappy’s house.

Wow. I can’t wait until Friday.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist