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The summertime memories of my childhood are mostly sensory, like the smell of chlorine and the cool linoleum of the kitchen floor beneath my feet. The magical tinkling of the ice cream truck as it slowly rolled down our street. My mother yelling at me to take my little sister with me so she could choose her own ice cream treat. The perfume of ripe peaches from the tree in our backyard, my grass-stained knees and the sting of Bactine and Cure Chrome applied to skinned knees and stubbed toes.

Drive-in movie theaters still drew a big crowd on weekends. My parents would pile us into the car with a couple of blankets and head to one of the local drive-ins on a Saturday night. Mom brought our popcorn in an old coffee can and our drinks in Tupperware cups with lids. I envied the kids whose parents let them buy popcorn and sodas from the snack bar.

Movie popcorn tasted different. Better. But there was no arguing with my mom.

I saw most of the Disney movies at the drive-in, but once in awhile, my folks would take in an adult-themed movie. After the opening cartoons ended and dusk turned to night, I’d hear my parents’ hushed whispers, “Don’t worry, Jenny will fall asleep.” Or even better, “Jenny won’t understand.” 

My ears would perk up. Understand what?

While my sister slept on the folded down back seat of my dad’s Volkswagen Squareback, I stayed awake and watched entire movies deemed unsuitable for minors. Between cups of coffee from a thermos, my parents would occasionally turn around and ask me why I wasn’t sleepy.

What? Sleep and miss something I’m not supposed to see or understand?

It wasn’t until I was older that I understood why Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin, would jump in the pool with his clothes on in “The Graduate”, but my grade-school brain did comprehend the message in the groundbreaking movie on race relations, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”.

Did you ever see movies at a drive-in theater? What are your favorite summertime memories?

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