There was not a lot of movie-going when I was a kid. My parents were young with four kids so going to an actual theater was a pretty expensive adventure. So yes, we watched a lot of VHS as a family. My parents were not the type of parents to let us kids choose, because they knew four girls were all going to argue over what to watch. They made the choice and if we wanted to watch it, we would.
Honestly, the first movie I really remember sitting down and being awed by was Labyrinth. I was seven or eight years old and excited to see it mostly because it was a Friday night and it meant I got to stay up past my bedtime. But once those beginning credits started with the snowy white owl and David Bowie’s sultry voice singing about the Underground, I was hooked. The fantasy adventure really did mesmerize me and I watched that VHS tape on repeat for an annoyingly long time. Somehow my parents survived my Labyrinth phase. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner Sunday night, but I absolutely remember the joy I felt watching Sarah make her way through that labyrinth to the castle beyond the goblin city to rescue her baby brother. It sounds incredibly cliche and sentimental, but I remember how good the popcorn was that my mom made too.
I became a hardcore movie fan ever since and if my parents were popping in a video (or later a DVD) on a weekend, I was sitting down to watch it too. I remember being traumatized by Jaws, which is the sole reason for my intense shark phobia even today. I secretly rooted on Carrie while she was getting revenge on her bullies, something of which I could, unfortunately, relate to (the bullying, not the telekinetic powers).
One Halloween, my mom talked me into watching Halloween with her. I will never forget how tense I was through that entire movie and I loved every single second of it. As luck would have it, I had to babysit a small boy down the street the next night, and I’m pretty sure I could have beaten Usain Bolt in a race with how fast I ran home at midnight, in the dark, when his parents arrived home. It was only two houses away, but I made it there in record time. Michael Myers would have to find another babysitter to slash to pieces.
These kind of memories are the ones really embedded in my mind. So much deeper than certain milestones of my life, like starting school or even going to prom.
I got a job at the nearby Cinemark when I was seventeen. This is when movies truly changed my life. In the midst of free movies, I met my first long term boyfriend there and became a part of a close-knit group of friends. I got to experience the hype and intense love of fandom when the first Star Wars prequel opened. I had never seen a line that long at the box office while working there. Working at the movie theater exposed me to a lot of genres I had avoided for so long. I had my heart broken for the first time behind the concession stand. My first date with another boy I really liked was going to watch Frequency. And it’s there I met my husband. He was a massive movie fan and had been working in theaters since he was a teenager too. Our entire courtship took place while we worked in that movie theater. Our apartment was full of framed posters of our favorite movies. Our idea of a date was —you guessed it— going to see a movie. We both have full-time jobs now, and three young kids, but we still love to watch and talk about movies we watch together or go see apart. It continues to be something that connects us.
So while there wasn’t just one film that completely changed my life, there are movie moments in my head that trigger memories that really mean something – my dad taking me to see Beauty and the Beast, which remains my favorite Disney film – or no longer being able to sleep on my waterbed (ha, remember those?) because the mere act of picturing Quint being devoured by Jaws spiked my anxiety and irrational belief that Jaws would somehow bite its way through my bed to eat me too.
My love of movies is what inspired me to somewhat impulsively apply for a job at that local movie theater, and it’s because of that moment that I have what I do today.