Taking Refuge at the Movies
As I have written in the past, my husband is a soldier who regularly deploys to faraway lands.
As the years have gone by, I am asked time and time again: How do you deal with your husband being gone for so long?
Here’s what I’ve come up with. I can always count on the following to help me with my loneliness, fear and worry: my friends, my parents, quite often I require the support of Chick-fil-A and chocolate cake, my dog Arco, and without question I turn to my local movie house.
Movies are my refuge. For two-and-a-half hours, I am transported to another time and place. I check my worries at the door, find my favorite seat, settle in with my popcorn, Twizzlers and Coke, silence my phone, and breathe in the jumbled aromas of the darkened theater — the bouquet of buttery popcorn, sugar and chocolate, and the slight dank musty smell I have come to adore, and I wait for the previews to begin.
As I sit in anticipation, I watch as folks come and go. Teenagers, who are always in a rush, frequently bolt out of their chairs and dart in and out of the theater for no apparent reason. Others act as if they are on a two-hour parole from their kids as they laugh giddily with their friends and loved ones, delirious to be free from diapers and the relentless questioning. I hear some discuss how their shoes stick to the floor of the theater due to spilled sodas. I personally have grown fond of the sticky slapping noise the candied floors make and take umbrage at their disapproval.
As the previews end and the movie begins I hear the faint whir of the curtains draw back as the screen enlarges, and the last of the lights go out and I wait to be transported to another time and place. I am an eager participant, letting go of my troubles and concerns as I take on the burdens of the characters on the big screen.
As I leave the theater, I am left to mull over the lives of those I have met on screen. If the actors and directors have done their job well I have either learned something new, or have been moved to tears or laughter. In rare cases I leave the movie wanting to be a better person than I was when I first arrived.
The other amazing thing that movies have given me is a dialogue with strangers. A few quotes from a particular movie will unite people. I find nothing does the job like a well-chosen one-liner by Will Ferrell from “Old School”: “I see Blue and he looks glorious.”
Or if I am feeling frightened or as though I just can’t do something, I take on a character of someone who can tackle my problems for me — think Mel Gibson in “Braveheart”:
“I am William Wallace, and before me, I see a whole ARMY of my countrymen here to battle the English. Ay, fight and you may die, run and you’ll live. At least awhile. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives .... but they’ll never take our freedom!”
If I’m angry and need to find a backbone, I call on Russell Crowe from “Gladiator”: “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant of the true emperor Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengeance in this life or the next.”
During a particularly bad breakup years ago, the movie “Something to Talk About,” starring Julia Roberts, let me know I was going to get through it and move on. The movie actually made me feel better. Of course the opposite is true as well one time I watched a movie called “A Trip to Bountiful” and cried for two solid hours afterward, just awful.
This summer at the movies promises not to disappoint, and I will be there once again when I need to escape and disappear for a while. I look forward to slipping into the cool dark theater with my sweets and inhale the pungent theater cologne of butter and mildew with its wonderful candied floors and wait for my next adventure.
How do I survive the life of being a soldier’s wife? My folks, good friends, of course my dog, and always my love of the movies.
Sundi McLaughlin is a Sunrise Theater committee member and owner of The Mockingbird.
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