Some things get better with age. Like my hair, for example. There are parts of me that I’d trade with my sixteen-year-old self in a heartbeat but my hair isn’t one of them. It took the better part of three decades to sort itself out, but my hair and I are on excellent terms these days. I find the silver streaks quite dashing.
Then there are things that once seemed great but fail to stand the test of time. No, I’m not talking about my waistline (although it obviously fits the bill) but rather a movie from my young adulthood.
I stumbled across the movie Mrs. Doubtfire at the library this weekend and gleefully rented it to watch with the kids. Robin Williams cross-dressing and making fun of Pierce Brosnan? Hilarious! Oh the laughs we’d have together. Or not. There were far fewer laughs than I remembered and far more vulgarity. My goodness but movie ratings have changed!
So instead of a light-hearted caper of mistaken identity, we were treated to the raw pain and anger of a failing marriage along with a jaw-dropping monologue from Robin Williams containing every crude euphemism for sex I’ve ever heard. At which point my eldest daughter helpfully paused the disc to ask what on earth he was talking about. Thanks, dear.
I realize that it’s entirely possible that Mrs. Doubtfire was never actually a great cinematic triumph. Children tend to have lower standards for entertainment than adults, so perhaps as a kid the slapstick antics were enough to leave a favorable impression. I can think of other movies that my friends wax poetic about from our childhood that are just plain dumb. Yes, I’m talking about The Goonies – and I’m not sorry. Never having seen that movie as a child, I seem unable to appreciate it as an adult.
Children have an entirely different lens for looking at the world than adults do – and not just when it comes to low-budget movies. They are calibrated to look for the magical and the wonderful. And so they find it.
Take blanket forts. A good blanket fort was just about the coolest thing in the entire world when you were a child. My kids certainly believe that today. As for me? Well, they’re not quite so magical. I don’t fit very well; the folding chairs tend to fall over; and the blankets always – ALWAYS – sag and collapse. I still build them and inhabit them, but only because I love my children. Left to my own devices, I could easily live fort-free.
When I was a child, there was a magic room at the back of my aunt’s house. My cousin and I called it ‘The Far Room.’ How’s that for lofty? It was always cold and sparsely furnished, which meant that we kids usually had it to ourselves. We made circus rings and rodeo corrals and flung ourselves off the battered couch with wild abandon. I don’t think there are any extant photographs of The Far Room and perhaps that’s for the best. Somehow I doubt it looks very impressive. I’d rather view it through the lens of my childhood memories.
Even my kids’ childhood zeal couldn’t save Mrs. Doubtfire (they didn’t like it much) but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to wow them with questionable 90s movies. I am counting the days until I can introduce them to Twister. I am also counting the days until they realize that the Land Before Time movies are incredibly boring and stop asking to watch them. Maybe next time I can talk them into a dinosaur blanket fort instead.