'Mom, guess what? An Affair to Remember is playing at the AMC Cinema - for its 60th anniversary."
"Really? Are you sure? That is a real tear jerker at the end."
"Yes - I'm sure. I've seen bits of it in Sleepless in Seattle, but not the whole thing, so let's go."
My mom and I meet at the theater to see a movie that was released in 1957. She first saw it when she was just 17. Like Marty in Back to the Future, it is fun for me to watch a movie with my mom that she enjoyed in her youth. We order beers, push back our plush seats, and settle in. Mom whispers, "You might think this is a bit hokey." Although I do notice a shot of a fake ship on the sea, the dialogue, acting, and plot are wonderful.
Movies have always been big in my family. We went to movies on Thanksgiving and on Thursday nights after dinner at my grandmother's house in Germantown. When my mom was growing up there, she spent Saturday afternoons at the movies.
There were five theaters within walking distance to her house, so she and her sister Peggy were often at the nearby Orpheum on Chelten Avenue, though it also could have been Bandbox on Armat or the Colonial on Germantown Avenue. Mom and Peggy would buy their tickets for 25 cents and then buy boxes of Juicy Fruits.
During the movie, my mom would line the arm of her chair with the black licorice ones for Peg, and Peg would line up the red cherry ones for my mom: their weekly trade. Sometimes, one of them would turn to the other and say, "Let's watch it again." And they would. They saw Annie Get Your Gun 10 times. They would do this with other movies as well, unless, of course, a tall, dark figure - my grandfather - would enter the theater and shoo them home.
Mom's mom, Maggie, loved movies as well. She grew up in Mahanoy City, in Pennsylvania's anthracite coal region. Her father was a miner. With six children, he struggled to make ends meet so going to a movie was always a special treat. Maggie's sister, Bon, became the ticket taker at the Victoria Theater around the corner from their apartment. This theater showed silent films when it opened in 1925 and, later on, the talkies. Bon never let anyone, not even family members, slide by the ticket booth for free.
Growing up, behind our Milk Duds, Sno-Caps, and Raisinets, my siblings and I enjoyed several Oscar-winning films, including The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Gandhi, Out of Africa, and of course, Rocky, that Philadelphia favorite. Years later, when my children would visit my parents, they were introduced to many classics. I think they watched On the Waterfront seven times, as well as West Side Story and Roman Holiday. And when my parents took our kids one by one on trips to Washington, no trip was complete without a visit to the Exorcist steps.
The year my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, turned 8, we went to my mom's house to watch the Oscars. The second new Star Wars movie, Episode II, had been released, and Elizabeth had fallen in love with the first. We stayed late, watched almost the whole thing, and a new tradition began.
When my four children were young, I was unable to get out to see many of the nominees, but more recently I've done my best to see all of them before Oscar night. Now, my youngest daughter, Lila, joins me in this race. She has to have her popcorn and Coke, while I love a bit of chocolate. The Help, which won in 2012, was one of Lila's favorite movies. Last year, we cheered when Spotlight won. There are so many good movies this year. We just saw the fabulous Hidden Figures and Lion, and have a date to see Fences right before the deadline.
Sunday, for the 15th year in a row, my mom, daughters, and I will drink champagne and nibble on shrimp cocktail and deviled eggs, followed by petite filets and a green salad. It is always a great celebration. I look forward to the Red Carpet show and the movie clips and the awards themselves, as well as watching and toasting with my family.
Often, we try to have a movie-themed dessert. Since Jackie liked ice cream, particularly mango flavored, we may just top the night off with that.