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Commentator Fondly Remembers "E.T."

By Naomi Yaw

Buffalo, NY – Twenty years ago I was a wide-eyed eight-year-old about to embark on my first movie theater experience. I can still remember the lights going down and the images emerging on the screen. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg, would become my touchstone by which I would judge all future films.

I can remember laughing out loud, crying in the dark, and fearing of the man with the dangling keys. Elliot was my first Hollywood crush and Reese’s Pieces became my new favorite candy. I didn’t want the house lights to come up. I needed more fun and excitement. I yearned to fly across the moon on my bicycle.

I am now a twenty-eight year old, married woman. I announce to my husband that we are going, opening weekend, to see the digitally remastered version of the classic movie E.T. He raises his eyebrows and smirks as I share the experiences of my childhood with such excitement I am jumping out of my skin.

I know what he is thinking. The last time we went to the movies, we had an experience that really turned us off. Throughout the entire show, a woman behind us talked to her friend through the first half, all the while chomping on her popcorn with her mouth wide open. Then her cell phone rings and she proceeds to have a conversation with the person on the other end until my husband tells her, “Take it outside.” No wonder the last place he wants to be is sitting in a movie theater full of kids. But he confirms his love for me when, with little hesitation, he agrees to take me to the movies.

We arrive early to get the best seat in the house and watch as the theater begins to fill with kids. I pat my husband on the arm to reassure him that it will be okay. He just gives me one of those yeah-right-whatever-you-say nods.

The lights go down and the opening credits begin. Kids shift in their seats and reach for their popcorn. I hear little comments all around me. “Mom, it’s a spaceship.” “Look, there he is!” Then, as if emptied, the theater grows still.

Elliot tosses a ball into the shed. It rolls out. Silence. We are hooked. Despite the fact that I have seen this movie once before, it feels like the first time. I don’t notice the new computer generated images. I just sit back and enjoy. I chuckle to myself when Gertie dresses E.T. like a girl. I inhale with awe as E.T. brings the potted flowers back to life. And although I know that E.T. is not dead, a tear rolls down my cheek when Elliot screams, “You’re killing him!” and E.T.’s heart light goes out.

For the first time during this movie, I hear noise from the audience. A little girl is sobbing. She gasps for air, trying to control her hyperventilating sobs. Her dad attempts to console her. Unlike her dad and me, she doesn’t have the benefit of knowing what comes next. I envy that feeling.

After all the Reese’s Pieces have been eaten, and the flying bicycles have landed in the forest, it is time for E.T. to say goodbye. My husband looks over at me and smiles. He hands me a napkin to wipe the tears from my wet cheeks. As the credits roll, the audience cheers. I must confess that my experience was just as good the second time around. Then, like E.T., we all stand up and head for home.

Naomi Yaw lives in Lancaster.