Today is a very important day in cinema history. Today (October 21st, 2015) is the day that Marty McFly visits the future in Back to the Future II. Today is also a very important day in my family. My oldest son Joey turns 11. This date is so pivotal in my house that we might as well declare it a holiday. Let me tell you why.
Joey, who has a propensity for becoming passionate about certain subjects and learning everything he possibly can about them, has been through many such phases. He became passionate about addresses, the planets, our family tree, the calendar, birthdays, and Presidents of the United States (that particular interest landed him on the “Today Show” at age 7).
We often struggled with how much to indulge him in these passions. I used to call them obsessions, but a wise friend advised me against that as it has a negative connotation. Do you allow the incessant discussions and books or movies on repeat? Once the friends and family know about an interest they lovingly buy him everything they can find about it. Lovely gesture, yes, but feeding into it too much? It’s a fine line to walk. A therapist once told us that if we tried to squelch a passion, that it would just pop up somewhere else.
This is his personality. It’s our job to make sure it doesn’t interfere with his ability to function at school and live a normal life, but otherwise, we figured it was safe to encourage his passions.
When Joey was 5 years old he became fascinated with the past and the future and asked for my parents to tell him stories repeatedly about specific moments in their lives. Then, he would insert himself into the story as if he had been there.
After this went on for a few weeks we decided that he probably would love the “Back to the Future” series. We were so spot on with this assumption that it promptly became the newest obsession in his amazing brain. He watched the movies repeatedly. We found him books about the movies. He played with toy Deloreans. He found the video game and played it. He read fan fiction. He discovered Futurepedia online. He knew it all forwards and backwards.
Side note: If you are thinking your 5-year-old would also love these movies, be warned—there are curse words. We thought they had gone over Joey’s head…until one day at the playground when a kid started to get aggressive with his friend Ethan. Joey turned to the kid and said, “That’s my friend Ethan—get your damn hands off him!” (This continues to be both my proudest moment in parenting, and my most embarrassing.)
That year, he was Marty McFly for Halloween. None of his friends knew who he was. He didn’t care. He wore that orange puffy vest and denim jacket and held a skateboard all night long.
As fate would have it, a few months later, the annual Delorean owners convention was being held in Orlando, about 30 minutes from our house. There would be hundreds of Deloreans, some actors who played minor characters in the movies, and best of all, Bob Gale (co-creator/writer of “Back to the Future”). That’s all I needed to hear. I bought us tickets and booked a room at the hotel.
Joey was so excited that he made an extremely detailed drawing/timeline for Bob Gale. It included everything from the movie, fan fiction, and a bunch of details I couldn’t even explain. We found Bob Gale on the floor of the convention, and I asked him if he could spend a minute with Joey. Joey handed him the paper and shook his hand. Mr. Gale looked at the paper and instantly figured out that it was pretty special.
He flipped out over Joey. He asked him questions, which Joey answered. He was clearly impressed. He brought us over to a screen-used Delorean, which was roped off from the public. He lifted the ropes and let Joey sit in it. He directed him to look at his watch and pretend he was looking off into the distance. Joey took direction. Mr. Gale even snapped a few photos of him with his own camera. We posed for some group pictures with him. He asked us if we had anything he could sign for us. We didn’t. So he went over to a vendor, bought us a poster, and signed it for Joey.
Seriously—could this man have been any nicer? It was definitely one of the highlights of my parenting life (and I’m sure Joey’s kid life, too).
It turns out that indulging him in that interest, and all of the others that have come before and after, is easy. He’s somehow known from the very beginning that school was not the place to discuss these things. He waits until the minute he gets into the car and goes to town talking about the things going on in his brain. We’ve learned to limit it. He gets five minutes to talk about what he wants, and then it’s my turn to ask him about his day. We continue to monitor and encourage his interests and make sure that they remain healthy and productive.
A few years have passed since our “Back to the Future” days, and we have gone through several interests since. Currently it’s Minecraft (another sidenote: If anyone hears about Markus Persson or Stampy Longnose coming to Orlando, please let me know). Somehow, though, “Back to the Future” continues to pop up in our house. He still has his Deloreans prominently displayed on his dresser. Our Marty McFly and Doc Brown Funko figurines are on our mantle in the living room. The Bob Gale autographed poster hangs in our game room. An autograph from Christopher Lloyd himself, addressed to Joey, was given as a gift from a thoughtful family friend, which remains framed on our wall. The movies are a part of our family culture.
Today, on Joey’s 11th birthday, theaters all over America will be screening the trilogy in honor of the movie’s 30th anniversary and of the date that Marty goes into the future. It couldn’t be more serendipitous for us. We’ll be there, celebrating the birthday and our love for these movies. It is our density…I mean destiny.