In the summer of 1994, on a Sunday while my husband was at coaching school (and I use the term “school” very loosely here), I decided to take my very young children to see “The Lion King.” Alone. To some mothers, this may not be a daunting task, but for me, it was a nightmare. Every parent in Rusk County, along with their offspring, was in attendance at the Henderson movie theater At the time of this adventure, my kids were 4 and 2-1/2. Again, I repeat the word DAUNTING. The concession stand line looped around endlessly, in the shape of infinity, and I opted out of this bonus fun (because I wanted to find a seat somewhere besides the front row). We were fortunate to find 3 seats in the middle of the theater (and our seats were in the middle of the row, which isn’t a bad thing until your child needs to go “potty” or participate in other shenanigans. Read on).
This was Charles’ first adventure in a movie theater (put your seatbelt on so you can restrain yourself from correcting my poor parenting performance on this infamous day). Christopher was a well-seasoned movie aficionado, with his first experience being in 1992 when “Beauty and the Beast” was showing in Longview. I was expecting Charles, and it was hot, and the theater was a great place to cool down. CRK (Christopher) enjoyed running up and down the aisles (in my defense there were very few people there, and I was pregnant, and it was hot. And I was pregnant. And, did I mention it was hot?)
Now back to “The Lion King.” CRK had no problem behaving, and he was mesmerized from the beginning with the fabulous music and exciting beginning.
Charles was motionless for a second or two, and then he, all at once, bolted from his seat and climbed his way over every person in our row. I panicked. I didn’t know what to do, because if I followed, I would have to crawl over about 6 people and try to capture him while anxious movie-goers were missing the opening scene. I let him make his way to the aisle (and before you think about reporting me to CPS, calm down! I knew what I was doing! Maybe). Once he was in the aisle, before I could move, he darted down to the front of theater, and on his way, he “high-fived” some older kids (who were sitting in the aisle because it was so crowded. I’m lucky he didn’t join a gang while on the way). At this point, it was obvious I had to wrangle my child. “Excuse me. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I apologize for stepping on your foot” (but you could have moved it out of the way). “Pardon me. I have to go get my child. Yes, that’s him sprinting across the front of the movie theater. (Stop judging me! Your child has chocolate smeared across his face, and his nose is running! Gross!”)
I finally captured Charles, and rather than carrying him back across the sea of legs, I encouraged him to walk. I was afraid if I carried him his legs might hit someone in the forehead, knock them out, and cause an even bigger ruckus. He slowly walked toward CRK, who was sitting intently, focused completely on the big screen, pretty much unaware that his family was the focus of ridicule and shame. And just when I thought I had nipped things in the bud, Charles began digging his hand into the big buckets of popcorn of the strangers in our row, as he sashayed by. I am not kidding! I was HORRIFIED. After apologizing profusely, and finally getting him contained, he started whining (loudly) that he wanted a big bucket of popcorn. I told him we weren’t getting up again, unless it was to leave. He kept on, and on, and on. “Popcorn! I want Popcorn!”(FYI- when Christopher was a baby, his pediatrician encouraged me to purchase a copy of Dr. Dobson’s, “The Strong-Willed Child.” After reading some key chapters, it gathered dust for several years, but I made a note to myself that maybe I should do a little light reading when I arrived home).
CRK was still entranced in the movie. I hated to ruin his day, but I just couldn’t do this anymore. Everyone in the theater had formed an awful opinion of my mothering skills, and if I didn’t leave on my own volition, I’m sure they would have chased me out of the theater, pitchforks and all. My eyes scanned around the crowd, and it was apparent I didn’t have one advocate (even though I knew some shady deals were being made behind the scenes. Threats of what would happen if kids misbehaved, and promises of rewards for good behavior).
I have never been one to BRIBE my children. I don’t agree with that concept at all, but on that day, and in that moment, it was all I had. The third time Charles wailed, “I want popcorn!” I leaned into his ear (at least I didn’t pinch it) and whispered (well, maybe I used my inside voice) and said, “If you promise to leave quietly, I’ll take you to Walmart and get you a toy. But you can’t make a peep.” This was one of the worst, most pathetic moments of my experience through motherhood. I had sunk to a new low. What I was doing was something I said I would NEVER do, and something with which I wholeheartedly disagreed. I was so ashamed, and appalled, but I wore it well and owned it, as Charles screamed with glee, WALMART!!”
CRK wasn’t pleased, but I promised that we would go to the movie in Nacogdoches in a few days, when we visited Gramma. He reluctantly agreed (because he has always been a peace-maker and pleaser) and we held our heads high as we, again, trampled and stomped on sandal clad feet, and made our way out of the theater, doing the walk of shame. Two days later, both boys sat through the movie and acted like angels (thank goodness we didn’t embarrass my mother). And I’m intentionally avoiding information about the trip to Walmart. It was both epic and abysmal.
Over the years, “The Lion King” has shared a prominent place in the hearts of our family. In addition to having a cat named Simba, in 1999 I saw the Broadway production, and was completely amazed. In 2006, on a trip to San Antonio with Brian, who was receiving the award for being named the 2A Basketball coach of the year for the state of Texas, we went to the Majestic Theatre and watched, “The Lion King,” which he LOVED. Sidenote: Brian isn’t much of a fan of musicals ( before we were married a friend of ours gave us tickets to “Evita” in Houston. During intermission, he was trying to find out scores to the NBA finals. All I can say is “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”)
When Christopher turned 16, I told him we just simply had to go to Hastings and buy a CD for his car (a right of passage to me, because I loved all my 8-tracks and cassettes). CRK wasn’t into a lot of music then, (unless it was the intro theme for Sports Center, it didn’t impress him). Today, he likes Texas Country, and of course, George Strait, who is our 4th cousin (just in case I’ve never mentioned it. More on that another time). But on that day, when we were buying his first “car CD,” after looping through the music section for over 15 minutes, he selected the soundtrack to “The Lion King.” Be still my heart. It was the sweetest thing ever, and it took me back to that time we went to the movie (well, the two times we went to the movie) and the many times he watched the video. And how can you go wrong with Elton John?
In 2017, I joined Chris (as his friends call him) on a trip to NYC where we stayed with my cousin Karen. The deal was that I would go to a Yankees game with him, if he would go to a musical with me. The only musical he would agree to was “The Lion King.” My third time in attendance was just as spectacular as the previous two. I later asked him what his favorite thing we did in NY was, and he said, “I thought it was going to be the Yankees game, but “The Lion King” is right up there with it.”
So why in the world am I writing about a Disney movie and Broadway musical? Because “the circle of life,” that’s why. As parents, we understand this all too well. But the thing is, we discover along the way, without any warning, that there is never just one circle. It’s like being trapped in a room full of never-ending hula hoops, which are being thrown at you from all directions. Don’t get me wrong, these changes and opportunities are all good, but boy, is the process exhausting!!! There are so many milestones/rites of passages for our children, and as much as it taps me out emotionally, I am ever-so thankful that my kids get to make these milestones, and reach the mountaintops, and that I get to be filled with the overwhelming joy and sadness that accompanies these big days/times. I know far too many parents whose time with their children was cut short. Such an unfair and heart-wrenching reality. So, for that reason, I choose to be thankful for the things that make me sad.
During this season of my life, Christopher is blazing a trail, making his way to reaching his dream of becoming a college basketball coach. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, he is now adding to his role and has been given more responsibilities, traveling the country, and gaining experience which will enable him to get that much closer to his goal. Our time with him is limited, but we sure do treasure every second.
On Monday, Charles will be moving to San Antonio. He has accepted a job and is super-excited to begin his career with a great company. Not only are he and Kaitlyn moving, but also his dog Marlie, who has been in our home for over two years, and their cat, “Sister,” (the name alone probably conjures up the word “Redneck” but there is more to the name than that). One day I will blog about these creatures, but for now, all you need to know is that pieces of my heart are venturing into a new, and bright future. I’m the happy kind of sad, and I know it’s all part of the process and the plan.
As Charles leaves, and as Christopher keeps chasing his dream, and as the new version of “The Lion King” hits theaters, I think of several iconic quotes from the movie that apply to this time, and to many events in life.
Lion King advice:
“Remember who you are.” Mufasa
“Love will find a way, anywhere we go. We’re home if we are there together.”
“As you go through life, you will see that there is so much that we don’t understand. And the only thing we know is things don’t always go the way we plan.”
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.” Mufasa
“Any story worth telling is worth telling twice.”
“Look, sometimes bad things happen — and there’s nothing you can do about it. So why worry?”
“Change is good.”
To all of you who are going through the maze of circles, and change, and new beginnings, remember what a blessing this is. I know exciting things are ahead, and I also know who is in control. It is my hope that my sons stay true to who they are, and remember the important things in life; to be good, and honest, and kind, and to always trust in the Lord.
Godspeed, to my two precious boys. Let love, and joy, and goodness, and kindness be your compass. And may your journey always lead you home.
“It’s the circle of life, And it moves us all. Through despair and hope, Through faith and love.
Till we find our place, On the path unwinding, In the circle. The circle of life.”
And to you, my wonderful friends and readers, “Hakuna Matata.”