Becoming a Father

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I’d always wanted to see “The Seven Samurai.” Ever since I heard about it, that is. I think I came across the title for the first time among the listings in a 16mm film catalog (for non-theatrical rentals) that I acquired somehow along the way – that and The Film Encyclopedia that sat prominently on my bookshelf, when I wasn’t pouring over it.

Then on practically the last day of 1977 up pops an ad in the newspaper, touting the showing of “A breath taking 3-hour epic” at the Movie House in the U-District – “The Seven Samurai.” I made plans for my wife and me to see it. I invited our best man (and my fencing buddy) Dave along for the show.  And that last decision probably saved me. For if he had not been there, I would have been in for a world of hurt.

As it was, the seats in that particular venue delivered a world of hurt. Hard, unyielding wooden chairs, not a hint of padding. You see, my wife was five months along in her first pregnancy, and three hours of swords and samurai on those concrete-like seats were not her idea of a fun time. But she held in there, mainly for the sake of not making a scene before our friend.

Was it worth it? Maybe I shouldn’t answer that. (My wife sometimes reads these posts).

Anyway, the movie wasn’t the only thing that had an overly long running time.

By the end of April of 1978 we were going past her due date. One week late. Two weeks late. As the number of days past the due date mounted, she began to dread the inquiring phone calls – “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” And people began to offer various suggestions for “helping” the baby along. Like taking the prospective ‘mommie’ on a bumpy ride over the railroad tracks. Two more weeks went by and that began to sound like a viable option.

There was one activity though that we chanced upon that held out the promise of inducing labor. Sonics fever!

At the time, ‘our’ team, the Seattle Super Sonics was battling the Washington Bullets for the NBA championship. They came in fourth on the season in their conference, so it was a huge struggle for them just to get into the finals. They had to top the other three teams – the Lakers, the Trail Blazers and the Nuggets. And we watched with great interest, my wife especially.

The first two games were held in Seattle. The Sonics won the first in a comeback finish, but the Bullets took the second. It was during that second game that my excited wife was down on all fours, belly to the floor, cheering the team on.

My wife delivered before the next game was played.

And I was right there with her. We had done the Lamaze classes, so I was sort of prepared for it.  But the baby had been gestating for ten months; so come time that the water broke, there wasn’t much left. And I wasn’t prepared for when the physician brought out a pair of forceps, inserted them around the baby’s head and started pulling. I watched in shock as my wife’s body was dragged down the table with each yank.

We were both relieved when our baby was out with us, but concerned for the marks on the sides of our daughter’s head. And the unforgettable look in her eyes. A look of bewilderment that conveyed a sense of feral fear. The very second our eyes locked my heart lept.

One talks about mothers bonding with their babies. I bonded with our baby in that instant. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her.

Well, the Sonics lost the series in 1978, but were back in the championships the very next year. And after losing the first game, swept the next four. And beat the Bullets in that rematch.

And our little toddler was gleefully ripping the books from my bookshelf, cascading them into a heap onto the floor. And I didn’t care.

The Parades Gone By the Stationery Store

the Parades Gone By the Stationery Store

My parents finally found a home for us in Renton. It was in the Kennydale area, up alongside of Lake Washington. We had no view of the lake, as we were well away from it, and only a couple of lots over from the I-405 freeway.
So, I now drove to work from the opposite direction (i.e. no longer from SeaTac Airport). I could literally go from a nearby on-ramp to a cloverleaf near the theater, which gave me access to Grady Way from the beginning of the Valley freeway, which if continued on would take you to Seattle via Rainier Avenue.
Sometimes, I would take the back way through Renton, especially if I were not in any hurry. I found a favorite stopping place, just off downtown – a stationery store. But besides paper, pens, pencils and other office supplies, it also carried books. Nowadays, my comics stayed in their boxes, as I more and more delved into the real books upon which my Classics Illustrated were based. I did still check out some from the library, but now that I had my own money (a whole 1.25 per hour) I looked to acquire certain titles for myself.
It may well have been on my first visit to this store that I found a book by Kevin Brownlow. It was an oversized paperback that caught my eye on one of those revolving racks. It wasn’t his name that grabbed my attention, for I’d never heard of Mr Brownlow. It was the title that intrigued me – The Parade’s Gone By. The blurb read “Recreates the earliest days of the Movies.” In short it was all about silents. Mr Brownlow had interviewed many of the pioneers of the “new” art form, and here retold their story.
It was a fantastic read, one of those volumes that you did not not want to end. When you came to the end of a section, as long as there was another, you rejoiced. He talked about the silent stars, of course, but also about the directors, the cameramen, the writers, the editors, the moguls and others that toiled behind the scenes. And there were tons of pictures, stills from the films themselves and candid shots from behind the scenes.
You really caught from Brownlow his love for this era and his concern for the preservation of these films. The read did come to an end, but not without birthing a desire in me to see some of these films someday. To date all I’d seen were a few Harold Lloyd titles (more were listed in this tome), and dim memories of Laurel and Hardy. Now I not only wanted to catch up on the other comedians such as Chaplin and Keaton, but also other Hollywood luminaries such as Fairbanks and Pickford and Valentino etc.
Most of all I wanted to see the films of D. W. Griffith, and above all else, his masterpiece Intolerance. The photos for its Babylon set captivated me. But that event would be a couple of years in the future. For now the parade for me had not even started.