My husband and I are huge Lord of the Rings fans. We've read the books - we downloaded sneak peek trailers for the movies (which we saw on each opening night). We brutally dissected the travesty of a trainwreck that was the "climax" of The Two Towers. We have two sets of the DVDs - the theater release and extended versions (both bought at the first possible moment).
And, as I've previously written, we have two kids... two kids who, at the time, were quite young (almost 3 years and 1 year old respectively) when the first film went to DVD.
Understandably, Marshall and I were concerned about the violence and general scariness of these movies with regard to our kids. Not that we were planning on letting the boys watch with us - we simply knew that we'd be watching them, a LOT, and if one of the boys has a nightmare, comes out to the living room for comfort, and sees some fiesty, mud covered Uruk-hai throttling a bitty little orc to death or the 800 lbs spider attacking our cute little hobbit hero - well, instead of one nightmare, now he'll have two.
So I had this brilliant idea. I would take the "making of" made for T.V. specials (where they show the actors putting on orc make up and the CGI people creating the fantasy monsters) and watch them with the boys. I'd just have it on in the background - say, on Mopping Day - and would ever so casually comment on (draw their attention to) the necessary parts of these specials. That way, though they were (obviously) still not permitted to watch the movies themselves (not that they cared at 3 and 1), they wouldn't be shocked and horrified if they were to stumble upon our viewings. (The specials in question are on Disc 2 of the theater release DVD set of Fellowship)
So far, so good. Turns out, these two specials became well loved - requested right along with Elmopalooza and Muppet Treasure Island. Here I am, thinking I've hit the jackpot - something I have to watch hundreds of times - but NOT want to stick my head into the oven to avoid. I am a GENIUS.
This takes us through to Crikey's 7th summer. Now the boys are 10 and 7 , Marshall's in Iraq - and Crikey actually has friends who've seen all THREE movies - the times, they are a-changing.
Now, I've never been one to care about peer pressure (my peers or that of my kids'). Beyond that, Crikey is a sensitive chap. He gets misty-eyed at very mild things. He is, in the very best sense of the word, a tender soul.
Before we go any furthur, I need to share a bit about Mopping Day. Kermit and I have crazy allergies. I am a neat freak who lives with a man whose own mother warned me could "make a mess in an empty room" and his offspring. These two charming lads are wonderful in many ways, and are like me in many ways. Neatness and hygiene are NOT dominant genes, apparantly. This drives me bonkers.
We have, as a family, come to an uneasy truce. I clean when they're not home - and I do not give them too hard of a time about what could easily turn into a hovel rather than a house. For their part, they pick up their crap (without complaint) when I do point it out...and Mopping Day Is Sacred. On Mopping Day:
Thou shall not walk on the floors without removing thine outer footwear.
Thou shall not eat in any of the upstairs rooms (the kitchen and dining room are upstairs).
Thou shall not disturb the upstairs in any fashion until it is time to go to bed, and even then, it is only to bathe, put on CLEAN pajamas and go to bed.
This, my friends, is Mopping Day. It is so well known, that the boys' teachers know about it. My friends schedule prospective playdates around it. Adults who visit our house are scared to come over on Mopping Day. My friends keep their phone calls short and sweet on Mopping Day because they know I'm furiously scrubbing something.
Essentially, Mopping Day is the hygienic "CTL-ALT-DEL" that restores my peace of mind on a weekly basis. As I am not mild-mannered, all who know me at least respect the value of Mopping Day as it affects their lives.
Back to LOTR. Crikey had been on me to watch it ("I'm much bigger now; I can handle it; Joey's seen it!" lalalala). No dice. 7, I thought, was still too young.
I don't really know how it happened - but I came into the living room one afternoon to find Crikey watching The Fellowship of the Ring (to this day, he claims supernatural beings found the DVD, put it in the player, sat him on the couch and forced him to watch). He was still in the Shire (the first half hour, for those who haven't seen the film).
Did I turn it off and send him to his room? Uncharacteristicly, I did not. It hit me that, as Forbidden Fruit go, the mother of eventual teenage boys has bigger fish to fry (or fruit to hide). I sat down to watch it with him. This way, we could talk through the scary parts, and I could remind him of how the special effects were created as the situation dictated.
Pursuit of the Black Riders? No problem ("mom, do you rememeber 'dat 'dey used 15 yards of material to make 'dose costumes?"). Black Riders as wispy, white ghosty looking things when Frodo puts on the Ring? Not even a sweat ("remember Peter Jackson wanted 'dem to look like 'dey've been sucking lemons for years and years?").
Mena (who had come for a visit while Doug was still gone) walks into the room, raises her eyebrows at me, understands the situation, and sits with us.
And then we get to Moria. Underground kingdom of the dwarves, deserted by them and infested with orcs. Orcs on the screen? Not too bad ("yeah mom, you're right, those are JUST ACTORS with MASKS.")
But then. The Cave Troll.
Crikey became a deer in headlights. His eyes were enormous (even more than usual) and fixated. His expression - frozen. Never before had I seen a clearer dipiction of "HO.LY.CRAP." on the child's face.
This surprised me, since the Cave Troll was in the T.V. special. Anyway. Same routine.
ME: "Are Cave Trolls real?"
ME: "What did they use to make it?"
ME: "Can a Cave Troll come to the house?"
CRIKEY: "no mom"
All this time, his body didn't move, his eyes never wavered from the screen and his voice was really, REALLY quiet. Crap. He knew the right answers - but he was NOT convinced of them. I was at a complete loss and already envisioning the many nights to come...oh, it wasn't going to be pretty...poor little monkey...
However, in this darkest of moments, Mena saved the situation.
MENA: "Crikey, what would happen if a Cave Troll came to the house on Mopping Day?"
The transformation was immediate. With a jerk of his head to address his aunt, with an expression that has not been seen on a face so young and innocent since the first "WHAT'CHOO TALKIN' 'BOUT, WILLIS?!?!?!" he pronounced, yes, pronounced:
"OH. MOMMY WOULD NEVER LET A CAVE TROLL ON HER CLEAN FLOORS WIT' HIS BIG DIRTY FEET!!!!!!!!"
This realization had, he relaxed. We enjoyed the rest of the film and not one nightmare ensued.
All was well with the world. All because of Mopping Day. And Aunt Mena.