This weekend my six-year old son John watched the movie E.T. for the very first time. At one of the most poignant moments of the movie (yes – there is more than one) when Elliot and E.T. separate from one another mentally and physically and then E.T. dies on the operating table, my son looked at me with tears running down his face and whispered “Is he really dead?”
And when E.T.’s heart glowed red just as Elliot almost finished closing the dry ice casket, my child sat up straight and wiped the tears away gratefully. “He’s not dead!” John said with relief. “I knew it!”
As a mom, I sat there watching John’s reaction to the movie and felt such a powerful connection to him while we shared this story. Say whatever you want about Spielberg as a person – as a film director, he is flawless. Every scene of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is a masterpiece of photography and images, with characters that are so well developed and likeable that the viewer can’t help but become emotionally involved in the little alien’s journey to get back home.
I loved being there while John watched it for the first time. Later, he asked me if we could watch some more E.T. movies, and became perplexed when I explained that there was only one. To a child raised on movies that always have part 2’s and part 3’s, this was beyond his comprehension. “But why, Mommy? Why is there only one?”
“They told the whole story in just one movie, that’s why. There isn’t any more story to tell. You have to use your imagination to figure out what happened after E.T. went home.” I replied. This made him thoughtful, as if he were learning a new concept about life.
Even after we finished watching it, John wanted to talk about what happened. I was impressed when my son – the child who can barely remember more than 4 lines of a song at any one time – was able to correct me when I added too many words to the good-bye scene between E.T. and Elliot. Here I was, thinking that I needed to interpret the ending for him by saying, “And then E.T. told Elliot to come with me…”
“That’s not how it goes!” John got to his feet and proceeded to re-enact the scene perfectly, adding voice inflection and using his hands the same way the characters did as they faced one another and said so much with so little. “Come……. Stay….”
I am reminded of a story my mother likes to tell about the time she took me to see Walt Disney’s original Bambi in the movie theatre. According to her, I was five years old and sensitive. At the point in the movie when Bambi’s mother dies, I was reduced to big crocodile tears. “Why do they have to make movies so sad for little kids?” I had asked, barely able to get the words out between sobs. I know that my mom regards this as a special moment just by the way she talks about the memory. It was a real mother/daughter moment.
Flash forward 35 years(ish) and I am experiencing déjà vu with my own child. Just the two of us, snuggled on the couch watching one of my favorite movies of all time and enjoying the experience.
Someday, when he is older, we will analyze the Peter Pan theme that flows throughout the film, as well as discuss the subliminal statement about adults vs. children that Spielberg was making by keeping almost every adult face covered until the moment E.T. dies. We will compare the original movie vs. the updated one with the guns Photoshopped into walkie-talkies, and dream about what might have happened if Elliot had gotten into the spaceship…
But for now, we’ll just watch the movie over and over like 6 year olds love to do, and be grateful for the experience. Maybe someday John will have his own son or daughter, and he will watch a favorite movie with them and they will cry at the emotional part. He will remember our time together, and then maybe he’ll also remember the story from Grandma, and one of the many circles of life will be complete.