Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Family Movie Night: Popcorn and trauma

Once every month or two, we try to have a Family Movie Night. Years ago when the kids were younger, this was a relatively easy thing to pull off. Now? Not so much.

You would think that getting the family together to watch a movie would be a relatively easy process. And it should be. But there are two main obstacles to making it happen:

(1) SCHEDULES: Living in our house are seven people ranging in age from 6 to 43, each of whom needs a social secretary. I cannot begin to keep track of the kids and where they are at any given time, nor can Terry, which is scary. If she gets confused by it, there's no hope for me. I'll come home from work on a Friday evening and will ask, for example, where Chloe is. And it's not uncommon for my wife to respond with something like this: "I don't know. She's either at Miranda's, at Rachel's, at Chris Dorazio's, at track practice, at soccer practice, at play practice, at the movies, at the mall, at her piano lesson, at the zoo, at the park, or in Venezuela." All of these things are equally probable, and I'm sure that Chloe told Terry where she was going before she left the house, but poor Terry can only retain so much information. Sometimes the whereabouts of her 15-year-old daughter get pushed out of her brain.

(2) MOVIE SELECTION: Even if we manage to corral everyone into our living room for a two-hour block of time, we're still faced with the dilemma of finding a movie that will appeal to kids ages 6, 11, 13, 15, and 18, as well as their 40-something parents and whatever combination of boyfriends and/or schoolmates happen to be visiting at the time. Inevitably, a few of us end up compromising our individual tastes for the good of the group. But only after 45 minutes of intense negotiation rivaled solely by Middle East peace talks for passionate opinion and violent argument.

Eventually we settle on something, pop it into the Blu-Ray player and sit down for an enjoyable night together.

HAHAHAHAHA! You know I'm kidding. This never actually happens, or at least it doesn't happen quite that easily. Once we get everyone into the house and the movie selected, there's still the process of preparing refreshments. Forty-seven bags of microwave popcorn must be popped. Drinks must be poured into cups with lids so that they won't spill onto our sectional couch (the one nice thing we own) or onto the floor, which would actually be OK because they would blend in well with the Kool-Aid stains that have been there since a Family Movie Night from 2004.

Even more troublesome is that while the food and drink are being prepared, some of the denizens of the house take this as a sign that it's OK to start wandering away and/or engaging in various other activities. When we all finally take our places and prepare to press "play" on the remote, we do a quick count and realize that someone isn't there. Annoyed, everyone starts screaming for that person to GET IN HERE NOW, rather than actually getting up and finding them. When the person does return to the living room, they are met with icy stares. I'm telling you, this is a tough group.

And speaking of people taking their places, this is another crucial element of the Family Movie Night experience. The sectional couch is big, but it's not going to hold everyone if we have visitors. Someone is going to have to sit on the floor, and no one really wants to. So the arguments begin over who's going to sit where, and why he keeps hogging the blanket, and how come she always gets the part of the couch that reclines, and I finally lose it and tell everyone to just SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!!! SIT DOWN AND WATCH THE MOVIE! QUIT YOUR ARGUING! WE'RE HERE TO HAVE A FUN MOVIE NIGHT AND WE'RE ALL GOING TO HAVE FUN OR I SWEAR I WILL BREAK YOUR NECKS! SO SHUT UP!

Capital letters don't do justice to my fury at these moments. Daddy doesn't lose it very often, but when he does, an uneasy peace will usually settle over the room. Those left without spots on the couch resign themselves to two hours on the floor. The others munch their popcorn silently. The movie begins. And 10 minutes later, we forget there was ever any yelling and screaming, because we're all finally having fun as intended.

Except for when someone talks during the movie and the others respond with a forceful "SHHHHHH!" Those moments can be a little awkward. But again, hurt feelings heal within minutes and then we're back to enjoying ourselves.

Or at least I am. That's because I'm smart enough to stake an early claim to the nice reclining chair. No way I'm sitting for two hours on that floor.

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