On our first date in 1977, the man who would become my husband took me to the movies in Manhattan. His choice of films almost guaranteed that it would also be our last date. A Latin from the Bronx intent on sharing his world view with this rather snooty college dropout with a pedigreed past, he selected a prison movie written by a Puerto Rican contemporary, Miguel Piñero, Short Eyes. The merits of the story — Joseph Papp produced it off-Broadway — got lost in the battle between us about how the world really worked. I took the subway home alone to Brooklyn, fuming. My husband tells me that he went home to Queens wondering if he’d ever see me again.
Movies Were Our Way of Celebrating
Our relationship survived that first encounter, and on New Year’s Eve we celebrated communally with other New Yorkers watching Saturday Night Fever. It became the soundtrack as we danced — me, performing and teaching — and sung — he, playing rhythms on anything he could find — into the 80’s. Superman, Tootsie, and other blockbusters helped us usher in the New Year until we married on June 26, 1982. We left the City for the better work-life balance of the State capital, where we raised our daughter. Somewhere along the way, we drifted away from the movies.
I wrote about those years in January, 2020, when we’d just resurrected our movie-watching New Year’s Eve tradition with the Star Wars prequel. The final words on that post were: “May the Force be with you.” Barely two months later, the pandemic had us all in lockdown.
The Pandemic Put an End to That
For months we stayed home, avoiding, even fearing others. We watched movies, but just the two of us, on television. On New Year’s Eve, I gathered with my cousins via Zoom. Later, we watched the ball drop down on a muted Times Square. Communal activity reeked of danger.
The Vaccine Gave Us Back Each Other
Scientists deserve every prize for so quickly collaborating to piece together a remarkably effective, efficient, and, it is now being reported, long-lasting vaccine against the COVID-19 virus. We played the internet lottery game in the early New Year, with our daughter having the lucky fingers on her keyboard, and we were fully vaccinated by the end of February.
It is baffling to me that more than half of Floridians have not yet taken advantage of this precious and life-saving commodity now that it is so much more easily available.
In the weeks since being vaccinated, we have slowly rejoined the world. We’re up to date with in-person medical appointments. I’m back at the local farm stand, hunting for inspiration in the aisles. In May, we even went out to eat with our daughter, enjoying the taste of food cooked by someone other than us for the first time in 15 months, all while sitting outdoors. Our favorite breakfast place— where we are greeted as family— is back on our weekly menu.
But, up until June 26, we had not been to the movies.
Our 39th Wedding Anniversary Deserved a Celebration
I was halfway through my three-month 2019 hospitalization in Amsterdam on our 37th anniversary on June 26, and my husband brought me flowers. One year later, I was healed, strong, and ready to jump into life on June 26, 2020, but we were deep into pandemic sheltering. Still, my husband bought me flowers for our 38th anniversary.
This year, he brought me flowers, more than ever before. And I decided we needed to really celebrate the 39th year of our marriage at the movies.
“In the Heights” Had it All
Salsa, singing, Spanish, hip-hop male water ballet, fire-escape choreography, the streets of New York City … Jon M. Chu’s film of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights had everything we needed to celebrate this year. The theater was about a-third full, enough to hear sighs during tender parts and “ayys” when Marc Anthony made a cameo appearance. We kept our masks on and let the movie pour over us, from the concession stand promo right through the credits.
It was a gas. Our brains were so lit up that we were awake into the wee hours. But worth it. So worth it.