Until the bittersweet end
Growing up, I always knew my family was different. We didn’t eat meat. We all had the same middle name. We didn’t live in a big house with a swimming pool in the backyard like many of my friends. We ate whole wheat bread. We didn’t have a dog. And, for the biggest shock of all, we had no TV. And when we did get a TV, when I was 10 or 11, it was only for watching movies. To this day, I’ve never watched TV in my own home. And I have to say, this may be the countercultural marker of my family life that I’ve come to appreciate the most. Of course, I protested against our TV-less ways as a child. I felt left out of conversations about shows, references to characters or jokes or plot twists that were a mystery to me. I eventually found my way to episodes online and tried to catch up, to fit in. But now I see, that unusual upbringing was such a gift.
While it’s something I’ve largely lost, thoughtful consumption of media is perhaps the best trait of all that I developed over those years of my childhood. When my parents did decide to bring a TV into our home, it was relegated to the basement. We’d only watch movies on it, and always together, and we’d discuss them afterwards. And while that habit didn’t stick forever, there’s one that has: We always, always, always watch the credits.
While it doesn’t mean much when I’m watching a movie at home (more often than not, I will have been fast asleep for at least the last third), it really stands out in a movie theater. While most other movie-goers are quick to get up at the first sign of those scrolling words, we stay. And while my family may have other motives (my father and sister especially are true cinematic connoisseurs), I have developed my own reasons for staying, and I will stay whether I’m with them or not. I stay to let the story I’ve just been immersed in linger and sink in. I stay to listen to the music. I stay to watch for actors’ names I recognize, to see the titles of the songs I loved, to notice all the babies that were born during production. I stay in hopes of a post-credits surprise. I stay to get a sense of what a very weighty undertaking it is to make a movie. I stay to show a small, unseen sign of appreciation for those who filled roles I didn’t know existed and will probably never understand. I stay to chat with my mom or friend or whomever I’ve gone with, to share our analysis and critique and praise. I stay because…well, it’s good to stay.
Perhaps it’s silly to think. What difference, after all, could three or four extra minutes of sitting in the darkness really make? But it’s a habit that does make a difference, I’d argue. I think it makes a difference to wait it out in this instant gratification-obsessed culture of ours. There’s something about those plush seats and darkened room that’s just right for pondering. It was, for instance, the best venue for my mom, sister, and I to wipe away tears after our recent viewing of Coco. It’s the perfect in between time, before we’re greeted again by bright lights and noisy crowds, for introspection. It cultivates that aforementioned habit of thoughtful consumption, allows for rumination. It develops patience. It reminds me of the goodness of resting. It’s not particularly productive, no—in fact, at face value, it seems like a perfect waste of time. But deeper down, I do believe it matters.
If nothing else, this seemingly inconsequential family quirk reminds me of the power of little things, of the little yes. And as we near the end of Lent, I need that reminder. It’s not perfectly synonymous, but it helps. There are times that I don’t really feel like staying until the very end. I didn’t particularly like the movie, or I’m feeling antsy, or the movie theater employees are giving us weird looks as they sweep discarded popcorn. And to be frank, when it comes to this final stretch of Lent and Holy Week to come, I don’t really feel like it. I don’t feel like fasting, or being reminded of my sinfulness that has persisted, or embracing the penitence of the season. But in these last three or four minutes of the film that is Lent, I’m going to choose to stay and wait and watch. I’ll reflect, and wait patiently in the discomfort, and let the meaning sink in. And when I leave that darkened room, just as Jesus left the tomb, I can only imagine the joy that is to come.