Remembering Betsy

I keep a journal, and every so often I like to look back in time and read entries from years past. A recent browse through old pages brought me to a summer day in 2014. I was at one of my favorite reading/writing spots — my local Starbucks. I know, so bland, so prosaic, but at the time it was one of the places I felt creative.

I was sitting in a comfy chair near the window, reading a book, when a woman with a cane and a man, later sixties, were looking for a place to sit. There were tables available, but all seats next to the windows were taken, and apparently I was sitting in the woman’s favorite chair.

There was something childlike about the woman’s lack of inhibition, in the way she freely and unreservedly showed her disappointment at the prospect of not sitting in her favorite place. Apparently she liked sitting near the window.

The woman didn’t act in an entitled, bratty kind of a way. There was a smile on her face when she commented to the man (whom I found out later was her husband) that all the seats were taken. Though she was smiling, I noticed it was the forced, strained smile one makes while trying to make the best of an undesired situation.

I don’t remember who spoke first, her or me, but I ended up giving my seat to her, and sat at a small table close by. She was so thrilled and so appreciative, she kissed my hand and pressed it against her cheek. A sweet gesture six years ago, but horrifying to fathom someone doing that now during Covid nation. I really miss these little human interactions.

She smiled at everyone, and there was something so simply content about her that I found comforting.

We talked for a while. Found out her name was Betsy and that she had MS, which was why she needed the cane. Her husband was a retired professor, and his love for his wife was apparent in the patient way he talked to her and helped her steady the cup of coffee to her lips.

I remember fondly how my encounter with Betsy affected my day. I feel lucky to have met her and know that a person like her existed in this world. I would see her at Starbucks again a short time later, and she was as happy to see me as I was to see her. We hugged like old friends. Her husband read a newspaper as we chatted. We talked about movies, books, mediums — anything we could think of. She was so easy to talk to because she was curious and interested in everything. It was refreshing to talk to someone so open.

She made an impact on me. She gave me a memory I can always look back on and remember as being good. I didn’t need to stumble upon a six-year old journal entry to remember Betsy, but having a reason to remember her brought a smile to my face.

There aren’t many people you randomly meet in your life who six years later can still instill in you a feeling of contented happiness when you remember the short time you spent with them.

Imagine how awesome this world would be if there were more Bestsy’s out there. I hope that now, six years later, neither her illness nor life, has wiped that beautiful smile off her face.

Movies and Memories

As a writer, the last thing I want to hear in response to recommending a very good book to someone is, “That’s okay. I’ll just wait for the movie to come out.” …. “But there is no movie for this book.” …. “Then it must not be a very good book.”  Sigh.

Writers don’t compete with other writers. We compete with every means of entertainment that take people away from reading. Could this include the movie industry? Possibly. But maybe for every 100 people who instead of reading a book, choose to wait a long time for the book to get to the big screen, a dozen or two dozen of them will be so swept away by the brilliance of the movie that they will just HAVE to read the book, while crossing their fingers that the book will do the movie justice.

Hey, if it takes a movie to get a person to pick up a book – I’m all for it, because I love movies. Ever since I was a little girl it was my escape. I loved books, too, and had gotten lost in so many as a child (still do), but I sure loved to watch movies. And could watch them all day. Everyday. And that hasn’t changed.

I have a stack of old tickets stubs I had saved. The oldest one dates Jan-3-1998. I was 21 at the time. The movie was Good Will Hunting. The adult price was $7.50 – today’s matinee. I saw it with my best friend.

I don’t recall what made me start saving movie ticket stubs. Maybe I’m just nostalgic because I do have a fondness for the past and lamenting how the time has passed. But I no longer save my stubs. The latest ticket I have is from 06-09-2007. The movie was Shrek. I saw it with my ex.

Now that I have stopped collecting these tickets, it seems silly to save the ones I already have, but throwing them away doesn’t feel right. I’ve held onto them this long – how can I throw them out now?

As I look over all the stubs from fifteen years ago, I can remember the exact person I saw each movie with.  Maybe this doesn’t seem like an extraordinary feat, but if you knew my horrible memory, you’d be amazed. My girlfriends have an edge over me because they can convince me I’ve said or done things I didn’t do simply because I won’t remember not having said or done them. It really isn’t fair.

I wish I could remember the multiplication table, or our State Capitols, or my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays the way I remember the people who sat beside me in a darkened theater as I shoveled buttery popcorn into my mouth.

In eighth grade, I saw the movie Madhouse with my boyfriend and another couple. Date night! He was eating Twizzlers and was so anxious to kiss me that he couldn’t even wait until he had swallowed all of his delicious candy because parts of the chewed, left-over pieces ended up in my mouth. It was the grossest, wettest and sloppiest kiss I’ve ever experienced. It was twenty-five years ago but I still remember the sweet taste of his candy on the back of my tongue and the feel of drool running down my chin.

I’m pretty sure that was the moment I became a lesbian. Thanks Ryan! It’s a wonder I even kissed another boy after that. I remember my feeling of relief when he left to go to the bathroom and I was able to towel off my face.

I’m not the lesbian who likes to rag on guys. I have experienced some decent kisses from those of the opposite sex, but nothing summed it up the way my best friend described a kiss when we hooked up with some fellows while visiting a college friend. “He kissed the way Mel Gibson looks.” Mind you, this was 1995 and Mel was lookin’ real good, but my kisses with boys never left me feeling like that. My kisses with girls…well that’s a story for another blog….maybe. 🙂

This blog isn’t about kisses. It’s about movies. Or rather, what attaches us to movies.

I remember going to see Silence of the Lambs with my mother, who is the loudest person you can ever watch a movie with. I didn’t know that at the time, but  she jumps at EVERYTHING. Even the parts where you know the bad guy is going to pop out, she’ll scream as if there was absolutely no build-up and she never saw it  coming. She scared me more than Hannibal Lecter did.

I took my young nephew to see Finding Nemo. He was so excited running down the hall to the theater that he wiped out, face first, onto the floor. Arms and legs outstretched. He was laid-out flat.  I laughed. I laughed hard. (I’m laughing right now as I write this). And he was mad at me. He slowly got up and wouldn’t look at me as I walked, and he limped, to our seats.

In the middle of the movie, I replayed his tumble in my mind – slow motion –  and I busted out in laughter again. My astute little nephew turned to me in the dark theater and whispered, “I know why you’re laughing.” Yes, he knew, and that only made me laugh harder.

Memories.

Anything can be memorable – even the worst movie ever made- if it’s connected to a memory that’s unforgettable.