BABIES AT THE MOVIES?

Several weeks ago, my wife Silvia and I finally freed ourselves on a Thursday night to catch THE INTERN, a film with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. What made that Thursday particularly appealing, aside from the cast, was the ticket price of six bucks. Yes, six dollars. The usual price at the Hazard Center Theater here in San Diego is only eight dollars. (Where else can you take in a movie, catch some romance for what is a relatively paltry sum?) When we arrived at the theater, we noticed a sign on the ticket window that read, “Baby Night.” Baby night at the movies? Never heard of such a thing! To say the least, Silvia and I were surprised: we wanted to take-in the early showing of the movie, but we were uncertain how enjoyable the experience would be on “baby night.”
Silvia and I looked at each other, took a deep breath, and decided to buy the tickets. We had no inkling of whether or not we would be able to stand the noise, but our desire to see the movie overrode our reservations of sharing the venue with infants. As we entered the theater, where just about all the seats were taken by young couples with babies in tow, we managed to find seats next to a couple with a baby under a year old. The little boy, who I initially thought was a girl, was very cute and managed to capture me with a wonderful smile every time I looked at him. With all my delight basking in the kid’s smiles and cooing, I entertained grave doubts about the viability of Thursday night at the movies–about being able to enjoy the evening when infant noises were likely to punctuate or even pierce the dialogue.
The movie started and so did the on and off crying, but after a while, with some small amount of effort and focus, it fell into the background, so that both Silvia and I enjoyed the unfolding of a very sweet and touching movie. When it was all over, we were deeply moved by our unusual experience with the babies. For Silvia, she explained me, the crying and other noises came to sound like birds in a forest—there as a reminder that nature was everywhere and that she was part of a grand scene, moving and gentle. As for me, I was enveloped by memories of our twins, Alexandra and Gabriela, as infants: I recalled what felt to be at the time interminable moments of sleeplessness, suddenly, all at once, evaporating and giving way to what became the beginning of blessed restful sleep.
One particular night is still very vivid in my memory. It was one of those early morning feedings, at about three or four, when I was barely conscious, falling asleep with one of my infants in my arms. The TV was turned on to keep me awake, but it barley did its job. Then—out of nowhere–a sudden surge of energy charged me into alertness, and I was overcome by the realization that I had to be present at that moment no matter how exhausted, because that moment with my daughter would never be again, ever! I experienced a force of overwhelming love for my precious little human being, the life that Silvia and I brought into the world. To this day that significant moment is locked deeply in my heart.
So it is that my heart goes out to all those parents with their babies at the movies. How much of an opportunity did they have in past months to go out in the evening for a little entertainment? I wondered, as well, how many of the mothers at the movies had an opportunity to be away from their children just for a short time each day, so to break the isolation that I am certain some of them experience. Having counselled many couples, and recalling my own experience as a husband and a father, I am well aware of how couples can become separated emotionally and physically as they tend to the needs of their children. So perhaps after all is said and done, whoever came up with the idea of “babies at the movies” was not only a marketing genius, but a mensch. There are, after all, times when we urgently need to be distracted from our children’s needs, and the movies will perhaps allow us not only that distraction but also the possibility of a little romance sneaking in to remind us that we became a couple because we love each other and we need that love to sustain us.
Many times when I see young children I am overcome by wonderful memories of my girls who are Silvia’s and my blessing. And to these memories I gather recollections of the many children I named and brought into our community, the community of the Jewish people in past years. All this as an expression of how memories give substance to our desire as human beings to be connected to others through rituals, ones that give our lives a sense of continuity with the past and hope for a future filled with many blessings. May those blessings capture you and fill your hearts with hope and much love.

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