Among my multitude of extraordinary talents, I was an excellent actress. Unfortunately, my audience was full of doubting Thomas’s and one big tattle-teller. I suffered for my art.
Two or three times each summer, Mom and Dad packed us into our car and took us to the Dix Drive-in. Mom brought a thermos of Kool-Aid and a big paper bag of buttered popcorn. David and I wore pajamas and brought pillows and blankets.
When David and I later passed the age limit for free entry, our parents forced us to suffer the indignity of slouching down in the backseat to appear younger. A far greater indignity was not getting our ages questioned.
David and I tried sitting outside on lawn chairs and on a blanket a few times, but the novelty wasn’t worth the mosquito bites.
The double feature began with a cartoon not yet shown on television. Our favorites were The Road Runner and Pink Panther.
David, and Susan (once she joined our family), fell asleep when the second feature began. The first movie was geared for children; the second, for more mature viewers. I never missed it.
“Lie down and go to sleep,” said Mom, as the credits from the first movie scrolled across the screen.
I learned to be as quiet as possible (for me) while watching the adult movie.
I often pretended to be asleep on the ride home from the drive-in, so Dad would carry me into the house. One evening, I made the mistake of continuing to talk for too long, making my sleeping state questionable.
Instead of parking in the driveway, Dad pulled up the hill and parked near our back porch.
“Daddy’s back is bothering him. He can’t carry you tonight,” said Mom. “I know you can hear me, so get up.”
My eyes remained closed and I didn’t wake up.
“I know she’s awake. She’s just faking,” said David the informer. “Look, her eyelids just moved.”
I bit my tongue to keep from yelling, “Mind your own bees-wax.”
The car doors opened and slammed shut. Eerie quiet filled the interior. Everyone went inside the house, except me. I stayed perfectly still and sound asleep.
Hours passed. Okay, minutes passed, but they felt like hours. Mom and Dad left me outside with the night monsters. Now, I was too afraid to leave the car and walk alone in the dark. Mom appeared on the back porch.
“Mary Barbara, come inside right now or I’ll turn the porch light off.”
What choice did I have? I grabbed my pillow and blanket, exited the car, and trudged up the wooden steps. I dragged my feet and barely opened my eyes. Clearly, I was groggy from being awakened from a sound sleep.
“I just woke up. Where’d everyone go?”
“Hmmmm,” muttered Mom.
Lesson learned: When pretending to be asleep, remember to first stop talking for at least five minutes. This piece of knowledge wedged itself in my memory bank, and later proved embarrassing.
Now it’s your turn: What are your early drive-in memories? Did you ever pretend to be asleep?
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