It's December. John and I take the kids to see the new Star Wars movie, and it's the first time I've been to the theater in quite awhile. Movies in the theater are a luxury on many levels.
The theater has been updated since the last time I set foot in it, so I am surprised by the wide lounge chairs. Individual recliners for each person: the extravagance!
Rose, our youngest at age 4, wants to sit next to me. Her three sisters file in ahead of us, and John sits on the far end. Before the lights go down, everyone gets a lap full of popcorn. As we pass the bucket down the row, I catch John's eye and we both smile. I know he's seeing the three full body lengths between us, what with the new, wide luxury seats and all four kids. Even if we both stretched toward one another, we wouldn't be able to touch.
I think about one of our first dates, how he picked me up in his mom's Crown Vic and wore that blue sweater with the stripe across the chest and gripped the steering wheel with both hands. I liked the thickness of his wrists. The front seat felt wide and there was a lot of space between us. I was nervous. Movies are easy, though; you don't have to think of anything to say, and you can creep closer together in an accidental way. You can find each other's hands in the dark without really meaning to, without having to acknowledge anything except the feel of skin on skin, a slow thumb circling my palm.
Now, though, there's a football field between us, and his grin tells me he sees the absurdity here, and the awesomeness, too.
The lights go down and Rose is very quickly in my lap, the big girl seat suddenly too big for her in the dark. The scene is instant action -- and loud. Storm Troopers are on the ground; there's a fire blazing and Kylo Ren shows up, and I see his mask and hear his amplified voice through the filter of Rose's tense body. She's squirming and asking to leave.
We talked about John taking the older girls and me staying home with Rose, but Rose loves Star Wars: she thinks Darth Vader is great. We decided she wouldn't tolerate being left behind.
"This part will be over soon," I whisper into her ear. Her eyes are closed and I'm sure I'll have to walk out of the theater before the story even really begins. But the next scene is lighter; it's daytime and we meet Rey. Rose relaxes into my lap.
The popcorn bucket comes our way again, but it's empty except for a layer of crumbs. Rose eats every schnibble and wipes her hands on my jeans. She drinks a lot of water.
We are in the climax of the movie when she has to go to the bathroom. I take her, and she talks loudly in the bathroom stall about BB8 and -- that girl. "Rey?" I offer. Our voices echo in the empty bathroom.
During the drive home, John fills me in on the part I missed -- it was a key scene, of course, which would have been nice to see -- and the girls make sure to add their reactions and experiences, too.
"Well, we'll have to buy the movie when it comes out so I can see it," I say, and a cheer erupts throughout the car. It sounds like we have more than four kids.
No one is hungry for dinner when we get home. Popcorn at 5pm will do that.
But I am full and happy with good stories. The made up ones, of course, because they can carry us away and bring us together.
But mostly I'm grateful for the tale that fills the space between then and now.
It keeps unfolding ahead of us.