In the corner of my mind is a cardboard box. It is a little beat-up. It is dented and creased. One corner is smashed in, and there are plenty of stains: spilled Kool-Aid, finger paint, baseball dirt. I have been carrying it around for years. Across the top in black marker it says “childhood.” It is clearly my handwriting, a mix of capitals and lowercase.
Inside the box are some great items. There is the small plastic trophy I won for first place in the Pinewood Derby. There are a bunch of Star Wars toys. There is a shiny, metal napkin ring. There is a black t-shirt with “Thriller” scrawled across the front in silver glitter. There is a slice of watermelon from that girl’s birthday party. There is a tub with water and apples for bobbing from my best friend’s birthday party. There is a bowl of Froot Loops from Tennessee. There is a rack of sweet smelling tobacco pipes. There is a big red-orange car that has black dots on the ceiling. If you stare up while your mom drives and let your eyes relax, those dots become 3D. There are plastic cups that say Salt Lake Gulls. There is a cupcake dropped in the dirt.
The are also free floating memories that aren’t attached to a specific object. One in particular has been on my mind. It is a patch of hazy fog. Frozen in the middle of that miniature cloud is bright yellow light shining from a movie theater marquee. I am looking up as the bright light bathes my face. I know my mom and dad are there. Maybe I am holding their hands. Something tells me I am, one on either side. That image is strong and clear. The edges are foggy: I don’t recall the drive there or what the Villa looked like on the inside, but I remember the yellow light.
Inside that theater I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. Raiders is the first movie I can remember seeing in the theater. As I search through my cardboard box I can’t find any other memories to replace it. I don’t know if its spot in first is why I love it so. But I do. I love Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I recently found all four Indiana Jones movies on a great Deal of the Day from Amazon. I couldn’t watch them right away, so they sat on my shelf waiting for me. I wondered if they would live up to my remembered love. And since my wife couldn’t recall ever seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, I would be watching it partially through her eyes as well.
It is a bit scary to revisit the past loves of childhood. Sometimes you show a favorite movie to your kids, sometimes you revisit an old TV show on Netflix, or maybe you stalk an old flame on Facebook. There are lots of things in each of our cardboard boxes. Sometimes those items should stay in the box where they will never fade, but only grow richer and fuller in our memory. To pull them out might be like exposing an old document to air and light. Those loves can end up disintegrating in our hands, never to regain their former glory.
The fateful night arrived. I put the disk in, and sat with my wife on the couch. The menu popped up and the familiar theme music filled the room. My heart swelled. I was seven-years-old again. The movie was everything I remembered. It fulfilled every expectation. At no point did I ever think, “Why did I like this?” Never once did I have to chalk anything up to being a kid.
When it was over my wife confessed that she entered into the experience planning on telling me she liked the movie no matter what, because she knew how much it meant to me. My wife was prepared to nod and smile and appease, but she didn’t have to. She enjoyed it. Was she a giddy little kid sitting on the edge of the seat the whole time grinning like a moron? No, that was me. But she liked it all the same.
And I was a giddy little kid the entire time. And it was because of a movie. A movie that provided a young boy and his parents the opportunity to create a memory that I will keep safe in my cardboard box forever. A movie that helped me create a new memory, one I have placed in a different box. A movie that makes me feel like a kid again experiencing the magic of a good story. A movie that quite simply makes me happy.