Sick Movies


Yes I know. And no I’m not suggesting that.

Christmas is a time of tradition. For what would Christmas be without opening gifts under the tree, a holiday Christmas party, or watching Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

For me (and probably you) Christmas has become a series of other traditions that are outside the usual. But are rather more minuscule and almost seemingly insignificant. So opening gifts and a family party brings along a cheesesteak and a visit and a night of drinking to my brother and sister’s house. Having saved all of my shopping for the consumerist haven of Langhorne, my mother and I will go shopping on the 23rd. I will feign exhaustion in the mall at some point, but will be overall enamored with it, knowing that I have no engagements other than wearing pajamas, eating a homecooked meal, and watching football with my dad. Our $10-20 bets on the holiday time college football explosion is another major tradition and is, outside of familial gossip, probably the number one topic of our conversations over Christmas.  

We watch in the living room, the kitchen, or his bedroom. Sit there doing trivia games and making lists of movies and books and countries we’d like to visit. When the game was getting too good or too bad, Dad always loses interest and suggests a few minutes of a movie or a show. I normally say no because the movies he suggests he is enormously familiar with and I am not. Nevertheless, I would come back from getting a bottle of water or from using the bathroom and come in as Alan Alda is flirting with Ellen Burstyn with a piece of steak or as Judy Dench is mired in the middle of a mindbogglingly boring conversation in As Time Goes By. A number of choices were made that I couldn’t understand. Who on earth would choose the original The Thing from Another World over John Carpenter’s 1982 remake? Insanity. I chalked it up to nostalgia and the need for comfort movies when you’re sick.   

When he had picked me up at the airport, my dad was clearly sick with a cold, speaking in a voice you might hear from a frog in a kids’ animated film that takes place in New England. Absurdly deep and somehow both nasally and croaky. He seemed to like this effect and spoke at length about everything he could to everyone he could. He’d pick up the phone, dial, say someone’s name, and then talk. A few seconds later, obviously in response to the question, he’d say: “Yeah, I came down with a chest cold this weekend. No, It’s fine….” And then the Frog of Vermont would go on to say, “so what about Wentz and the Eagles?”

The kitchen table and the coffee table in the living room became a cemetery of tissues and I would peer at these white sheets with their fluorescent green patterns and just know they were coming for me. And I was right. About a week after spending six hours a day two feet away from the great frog of Vermont, I got a tickle in my throat and a dull thud in the back of my neck. All efforts to maintain the cold with vitamin C, green tea, and booze were unsuccessful and I was soon speaking like Frog’s friend Luther, the aged yet happy and deep-voiced toad who lived on the other side of the pond. And so for a week we sat in dirty sweaters croaking back and forth like animated kids’ film characters. When I’d go off to sleep on my couch, I’d put on one of the Harry Potter films. After a few days I realized that these were my sick movies.

The Sunday after returning from Prague I holed up on the couch and turned on Netflix. It was dark outside at 2 pm and somehow both raining and snowing. I decided it was a day to spend on the couch with tea and sick movies. I went to classics and then began a day of 80s movies to which I knew every line. Ghostbusters. The Goonies. Twins. Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Burke mostly went along with these, but as she is a child of 90s movies I could understand the occasional consternation. How could you choose The Goonies over Jurassic Park? I blew my nose, stuffed the toilet paper into the pockets of my cardigan and told her these were my sick movies. She nodded understanding and as a far more empathetic creature than I, she probably actually does understand. That or she’s making her own list of 90s movies to watch next weekend, when she has caught my cold and is croaking like Frog and Toad’s friend Turtle, who has lived for years on the south side of this Vermont pond.

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