Yet another influential movie? 2001: A Space Odyssey–the only movie in my life that took me almost ten years to see.
Let me explain:
The scene: the Kadena AFB base theater. The time: Summer of 1969. For some reason my mother decided to take us to the movies. For most folks, going to the movies with Mom isn’t a big thing, but for us it was momentous. Why?
Because up until then, my mother never, ever, took us to the movies. She took us to the NCO Club every Sunday afternoon so we could diligently scrutinize her fifteen bingo cards while she chatted with her friends (she lured us with promises of cinnamon rolls and all the Shirley Temples we could drink). She took us to the commissary so we could climb rickety grocery shelves to grab cans of Spam. But she never took us to the movies.
I’m not sure why she decided to take us and why this particular movie. I vaguely remember Dad on TDY at the time. I also remember the air conditioning at home being on the fritz–that plus two sweaty, bored kids probably drove my mother to the edge. So she took us to see a matinee showing of 2001.
We paid for our tickets (a big 45¢ for the three of us) and sat down. My sister sat on one side; I sat on the other. Mom was staring intently at the screen when the lights came down–so far so good. I’m sure my sister was happily pulling out newly-cemented fillings with Jujubees that were shipped from the mainland the year before. I was thrilled because she bought me the industrial-sized box of Raisinettes, something rarely allowed, but Mom was a desperate woman.
Then it started. She was okay when the first ape showed up. She was okay when more apes showed up. She was even okay when they started beating on each other with bones. But she wasn’t okay when one of the bones flipped into the air, turning into a space ship. Her reaction went something along the lines of
HUH????? What’s going on?!?
(Try imagining that phrase in a very loud and very, very Japanese voice.)
It didn’t help that Mom stood bolt upright in the middle of the theater when she screamed. She grabbed my sister and me and yanked us out of our seats (no mean feat for a slender women of 5’2″ with a 5’4′ daughter weighing at least 150 pounds). She dragged us out into the sunlight and flagged a taxi (which was a big 25¢ for the ride home). Mom didn’t say a single word during the entire trip. The three of us never spoke about that day.
But I always wondered what happened after the bone turned into a ship. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s when I was in high school and the movie was re-released that I was able finally to see the whole damn thing.
Of course, I didn’t tell Mom. I think I told her I went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show….