Much of my childhood in the late nineties and early noughts was spent in Rosehill’s video rental store. There, my father would browse the action and thriller sections as I perused Disney and Tim Burton tapes. For some time, they had a deal where you could rent 20 videos for the price of 15 or something like that, so we would pick ten each, though my father usually let me have some of his.
It was a big store, at least to me in those days, as I could only just reach the shorter shelves. Red ‘SALE’ banners hung from the ceiling permanently and were pasted all across the windows. The movies lining the walls were new releases. The deal didn’t apply to those, but I liked to look for new additions to the familiar shelves, though I almost always chose the same movies to take home.
My father didn’t think it was bad to watch so many movies. He worked from home as a translator and considered them part of my overall education, accompanying our conversations about history and life in general, lessons in algebra and physics, my personal reading, and private music tuition. Like many of our parents, he marvelled at the luxuries that technology afforded: “I never watched so many movies when I was a child, believe me.
“If we were very, very lucky, your poppy would take us to a drive-in, the one in Blacktown, the only one still there. But there were only black-and-white films in those days. Later on, we got our first TV. But still only black-and-white. So when movies like The Wizard of Oz came out in the theatres, we could hardly believe it. You could actually see the black-and-white melt into colour.”
The people at the counter knew us. They would scan my father’s membership card and ask for the password. The password was my name. I would stand and look at the packets of tri-coloured fairy floss, bars of chocolate, and stacks of microwave popcorn. The butter-flavoured packets usually came home with us.
My father knew that the racehorses were gaited in a dead-end road nearby at dawn and dusk. He knew because he drove past the video store every morning to take my mother to work for her six o’clock start. As we left, balancing our video stacks as the sky became dark, we would stand near the parked cars and watch the moving figures of a man with his horse in the distance.
At home, after dinner, I would stand and listen to the irregular popping noises coming from the microwave, watching the bag expand. My father would sit with me as I watched yet another Lizzie McGuire tape and he would give me the larger portion of the popcorn.
I remember he would watch his own selections after I had gone to bed. But very often, I would feign sleeplessness and come downstairs. He would put on Snow White if he was still awake, but more often than not I’d find him asleep on the sofa. And that’s how I watched Kill Bill at age six.
We went to the video store less as I got older and school became more serious. But I remember seeing the shelves change from videotapes to DVDs and Blu-Rays. By the time I was in my last few years of high school, leaving the house to rent movies was an unlikely affair. That was when they started selling the rental discs for a few dollars each. The store is gone now—what was once Video Ezy is now a medical centre. But sometimes you can still see the racehorses being exercised at dusk.