It started at around 2am. I had already been asleep for several hours when she came into my room to wake me. Tugging gently at my warm wool blanket, she bounced lightly on the bed while I struggled to understand what she was saying. No matter how often it happened, I was always startled. My eyes, heavy with sleep, could see flickering light coming from the living room and an anxious expression on her face.“Mom, what is it?” I said.
“The Swan. It’s about to start,” she said, and then helped me into my terrycloth robe, the pink one with the little hole in the right sleeve.
“Which one is that?” I asked.
“The one about the princess and the tutor. You know, Grace Kelly and Louis Jordan. Oh…and Alec Guinness is the prince.”
“Can’t we tape it?” I asked.
She shook her head. “That would be cheating.” We never taped the late night classics. The idea that we could miss something crucial kept us glued to the T.V., soaking in every word of dialogue, every screen kiss.
I yawned and slid my feet into my slippers as I got out of bed, thinking of the cold ceramic tile that lay between my room and the couch.
Within minutes, I was tucked in with a comforter around my legs, surrounded by pillows on the couch in front of the T.V.
Mom went to the kitchen and threw a bag of popcorn into the microwave and brewed a pot of tea. She joined me as the film began. Grace Kelly’s lovely face filled the screen and the opulence of the palace made me forget our cold living room. Soon after, there were only the actors on the screen and the enormous red Tupperware bowl of popcorn on my lap.
Mom sipped tea while she sat in the deep cushioned chair with a serape from Tijuana wrapped around her shoulders. Her pleasure and excitement by the action on the screen and my obvious enjoyment showed in her dark eyes. I think she liked it when I asked her about the actors, the story and the other films she enjoyed. This was our tradition, our means of communication. Every week when the TV Guide turned up at the house with the address label curled at the edges, she would sit and flip through its pages seeking out old friends; Garbo, Bacall, Dean, Stewart, Bogart and Monroe. When their names appeared, she circled the entry with a thin black marker and made a note in the calendar, indifferent to whether or not it was a school night. As I passed, I would gauge how much sleep I could expect to get that week.
Even now, many years later and thousands of miles away, I search the cable guide for mutual friends, each one a link to those lost late nights. I found Monroe and Curtis the other day and I promised to send her their regards next time we meet.
- Eliza Dashwood (originally posted in 2010)