How many of you have ever heard the term “movie moments” before?
Well, a movie moment is when something happens in real life that’s just so perfect that it seems like a scene in a movie. Like it’s just so perfect that it could only have been envisioned by some brilliant screenwriter.
Let me give you an example.
When I was 17, my family lived next to a church. The church’s parking lot ran up to the side of our property, and there was a standard 4-foot-tall chain link fence between our side yard and the lot.
On weekends, I often parked in the church lot to avoid stacking our driveway with cars. One day, I parked there, but I was accompanied by my best friend, Cody, and my younger brother, Steve.
When I got out, I decided to show off by hurdling over the fence. Perfect form. Up, leg out, snap the foot down, carry over. I was on the track team at school, and my specialty was hurdling.
Cody laughs, and says, “I can do that.” He gets a running start and just jumps as high as he can, arms windmilling as he clears the fence. He comes down close to the fence, splashing as he lands because the grass near the fence is wet from recent rain.
Then my brother decides to do the same thing as Cody, only his left foot dips down and catches on the fence as he leaps over it. He does a complete face plant as he splashes onto the grass. Cody and I were laughing at him for the next 30 minutes…
Folks, that’s a movie moment. I’d like to share several of my favorite movie moments with you, and then I’ll explain why they’re so important to me.
Once upon a time, I was in the Boy Scouts. One summer, I attended a week-long camp, and my Dad was drafted as a volunteer to help. We had all sorts of cool classes to go to, archery, tying knots, etc.
As I came back to our camp site from one of these classes, one of our youngest scouts came rushing up to me, and then he threw a water balloon at me from point-blank range.
I was drenched, and it was hilarious. But I didn’t have any water balloons to throw myself. Etiquette required that I make him pay for his transgression. Plus, as a more senior member of the Scouts, I needed to let him know there’d be consequences if he tried it again. So I thumped him.
Open hand shove to the chest, not too hard, just to let him know that he’d been tagged. But he was off-balance, and fell backwards onto his butt.
His eyes got really wide. He leaped up like a jack-in-the-box, and ran across the clearing to my Dad, wailing, “Your son hit me!”
My dad looked down at him and said, “Well, I told you that you could throw a water balloon at him. I didn’t say he wouldn’t hit you.”
In another movie moment…
I was dating a girl who lived in Arlington. It was my birthday, and she was picking me up at the Ballston Metro. She’d already told me that she had my birthday present with her, and that it was really breakable.
When she saw me, she came rushing down the escalator. Unfortunately, she tripped about two thirds of the way down, and launched into a perfect swan dive.
So there she is, flying through the air from 15 feet up. And there’s my highly breakable birthday present, flying out of her grasp.
And thus, the terrible, terrible dilemma. Do I catch my present? Or the girl?
We’ll leave her there for now, hanging in mid-air.
I’d like to tell you one more story, but this one has several movie moments within it.
Once upon a time, when I was in fifth grade, I was sitting outside the principal’s office with my mother, waiting to find out if I was going to be suspended.
You ask, of course, what could a goodie two-shoes like me do that could have gotten me suspended? Especially as a fifth grader.
Well, the night before, there was a championship basketball match held at my school. I was the star player in a very close game. By end of the match, people were chanting my name, and cheering my team on.
It was glorious.
Afterwards, the parents were gabbing, and us kids were just shooting hoops for fun. An eighth grader, who was there because his brother was on the team, started making fun of me, being really mean, as if my success had offended him in some way.
He capped off his little campaign of abuse by stealing my basketball and throwing it out the back door of the gym. This is the first movie moment. It was pouring. And the school was at the top of a long,
gradually sloping hill.
That ball rolled past the kindergarten. It rolled through the playground without hitting a single piece of equipment. It rolled into the field beyond, then over the baseball field. It continued into the outfield where it reached the edge of a vast puddle of water that occupied the rest of the school property.
And then, carried by wind and what little momentum remained, it floated into the middle of that vast expanse of water.
Now, it occurred to me that I was being bullied. And if you know anything about me, you’ll know that I don’t take well to this. In fact, even as a fifth grader, I had already determined that the best defense against bullies was the rapid infliction of a vast amount of pain.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next. In one corner, me, at 5-4, weighing in at 90 pounds, all skin and bones and wearing funky sports glasses. On the other side, an eighth grader, three years older, 5-8 and 150 pounds. Now cue the Rocky music, as the fifth grader beats the stuffing out of the bully.
It took five adults to pull me off him.
And that’s how I found myself waiting to meet the prinicpal.
So, I’m sitting in the waiting room of the principal’s office with my mother, and my basketball coach
comes out of an inner office. He sees us, rushes over, and says excitedly, “I’m so proud of your son! What a great fight! He’s got an awesome right hook. I didn’t think he had it in him!” In his exuberance, he even gives my mother a big bear hug before he rushes off to his next appointment.
I was floored. I felt like I’d fallen into some parallel dimension, or something.
A little later, the prinicpal called us in. He stared at me for about ten minutes, and I felt like he was scanning my very soul. It was actually probably only five seconds or so, and then he says, “I’ve
checked with everybody involved. I’m just bringing you in as a formality, because it’s expected in a situation like this. You were clearly provoked. But, young man, don’t you make a habit of fighting in my school. I don’t want to see you in my office again.”
That was it. No suspension.
So, why are these movie moments so important to me? Consider this.
My little brother in a moment of total humiliation. I’m sure those of you with little brothers can appreciate this.
My father, in a moment of complete and utter coolness, with the perfect comback.
My parents, my coach, and my principal teaching me that it’s OK to get into a fight, if you pick the right fight. That’s a great life lesson.
I challenge you to look for the movie moments in your life. They could be as simple as a daughter walking down the aisle in her wedding dress, or a baby’s first steps.
Keep those memories alive. Tell stories about them. In the end, they are what life is all about. They’ll give you comfort when you’re old, and they may even become family heirlooms, kept alive and retold by future generations in your family.
Oh, and the girl from the escalator? I caught her. [Holding up my hand and pointing to my wedding ring]