The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED FIFTY ONE: GROWN KID – GROWING UP WITH STEVEN SPIELBERG
We have a few touchstones in our lives. We’re lucky to get any at all. And I guess you can consider me lucky because I have had my share. And they have been so important to me, I can’t seem to shut up about them.
Here’s the one about Steven Spielberg.
I remember loving the summer when I was young. School was out. I was too young to have a job. Except for a few chores, this time was all mine. And I spent a lot of this time alone with my imagination.
I didn’t have a lot of friends that lived around me. Most of my friends lived across town and I would only see them once or twice during the summer and maybe call them every other week. It was up to me and what I could think up to keep me occupied. I spend as much time outside in the heat or the Summer rain playing in puddles as I did alone in my room or downstairs in the den where it was cool and I had space to spread my playthings out and exercise my imagination.
And, of course, there were movies.
Especially summer blockbusters.
And the ones I love the most usually had the name SPIELBERG attached to them. The first movie I remember seeing in a movie theater was Jaws. Yeah, you read that right. JAWS.
My mom took my sister and me and I sat there terrified as I watched a shark, a BIG shark, come out of the water onto a sinking boat and eat the skipper of the boat. That is a moment that will stay with you. especially an almost four-year-old.
“How do you remember that? You weren’t even four yet?”
Are you kidding me? How could I ever forget that? I spent the next month afraid that a shark would come up out of the floor as a slept at night. And I slept on the top bunk of bunk beds.
But I developed a taste for his movies. I got to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind and I pretended to search for Devil’s Tower in my yard, pretending to be on the journey with Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss). And I went to see E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and remember openly weeping at the end of the movie when E.T. had to go and Elliot had to stay. I was ten and a half when you were trying to be a ‘man‘ and I couldn’t hold back the tears as his ship flew away.
Then, of course, there was Indy. I pretended to be Indy battling Nazi’s and carrying a 6-foot bullwhip my dad bought me, using it to catch limbs above me in the trees and pretending to save the girl. That was for Raiders and Temple and I had a completely different feeling for Crusade. But we’ll get to that.
Then his movies started to change. They started to feel more ‘grown-up’. And it seemed as his movies became more mature, so did I. Now he made movies that made you think and sometimes look away in horror, not with a melting face from Raiders but with a girl in a red coat as she walked through the streets as people got murdered around her in Schindler’s List. I understood with an adult mind what kind of impact Mr. Spielberg was trying to impress upon me and the world.
He mixed in more light-hearted fare with Jurassic Park but those early days were over. He made Munich and Amistad.
But the one that made me realize we could never really go back to E.T. was Saving Private Ryan. I saw this movie with my girlfriend at the time (my now ex-wife). I really had no idea what I was going to see. I had seen some rough war movies but in my opinion, this is the beat all war movie ever made.
Here’s a little story about that viewing. I had heard that it was the most true-to-life war films ever made. I knew this going in so I was prepared (at least, I thought I was). As the movie starts and the war vet is looking for a particular grave at Normandy with his family walking behind him (I bet you’ve seen the movie but just in case you haven’t seen it, I won’t give any spoilers…and shame on you for not seeing it up to this point), a woman came in bringing her two children (I’m assuming they were her children) and they went down to the front row.
The. Front. Row.
And even though it was dark in the theater, based on the children’s heights, I’m guessing the boy was under ten and the girl was about six. Now, I’m not sure what this woman thought she was going to see on the screen. Maybe Tom Hanks suddenly becomes young in front of his soldiers and hilarity ensues or E.T. shows up and heals the soldiers with his healing, glowing finger (insert laugh track here). What she got (and the two young kids got) was probably the most accurate war scene ever placed on film. Blood, guts, body parts being sent skyward as explosions separated them from their owners. Basically, war. Simple, unadulterated war.
This scene lasts about twenty minutes. As soon as it was over, the woman scooped up her kids and they walked back up the aisle, the mother looking over her shoulder in disgust, and out of the theater, never coming back.
I have never forgotten that. I play that moment in my head from time to time. I wonder what she was thinking. And because I was a boy once, I wonder what that scene did to her boy. I think he saw it at the wrong time. He wasn’t prepared. And he wasn’t born at the best time to embrace Steven Spielberg movies. Maybe he had his own movies that he pretended to be a part of in his front yard or in his room. Maybe he had his own ‘Spielberg’.
I hope so. Every kid needs somebody like that.
I believe that my time growing up was extra special. A lot of wonderful things came out while I was a kid, things that I spent summers thinking about, and falls, and winters, and springs when the anticipation of the coming summer got me excited. I wondered what new thing I could add to my imagination. I wondered what new thing would amaze me and envelope my mind.
Now, that feeling doesn’t happen as often. I feel like that magic that I experienced in those life-shaping summer months stopped once real responsibilities became a way of life. And when I rewatch these movies of my youth, I get different things from them.
One of those films is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When I saw it in the summer of 1989, it was just an adventure where we got to see his youth and his summer adventure when he discovered himself and his life mission. When I got older and watched my own father get older, I had a whole new insight. The relationship between Indy and his father became the bigger part of the story to me.
And just like that, I was growing up, right along with the director of my favorite movies of my childhood. I can’t say that with any other director.
It is without any doubt that those moments during the most personality shaping time made me who I am today. Those things allowed me to branch out to other things. Those things helped broaden my interests and how I feel about the world and what I want my daughter to believe in.
Yeah, Steven Spielberg helped me teach my child. It’s true. I want her to imagine and dream. And even though she must grow-up and become more responsible for her life, she can still stay in touch with that child she once was.
Back when I was a kid, most good things I watched had Spielberg attached to it. He is attached to good memories and well-told stories and worlds in which I wanted to live and experience.
And he still is. I grew up with Steven Spielberg and I still am. Though part of me never will… because of him.
Thank you, Mr. Spielberg.
-Loyd Elmore Jr
June 14th, 2019
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.