The buttery summer sun hangs just above the tree line, and we're biding our time before the drive-in opens at dusk. The red blanket that...

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At one time, Washington had more than 70 drive-in movie theaters. There are now just eight. To those born after video recorders, the Internet and skyrocketing land values, drive-in movies remain as mysteriously alluring as they did 40 years ago.


The buttery summer sun hangs just above the tree line, and we’re biding our time before the drive-in opens at dusk. The red blanket that we use to line the bed of our rusting Ford pickup is still covered in dried grass, wadded up in the backseat beside a lukewarm 12-pack of watery beer, the leftover contraband from last Saturday night’s mass at the theater.


Tonight, we’ll go again to see … oh, what’s playing? It doesn’t matter. We don’t love the drive-in for what’s on screen. We love the drive-in because of the way the breeze carries the giggled gossip and staticky hush of badly tuned AM radios, and the intoxicating smells wafting from the snack shack, into our open windows even before we park.


We hide in the wells behind the backseats to save 4 bucks on admission, pushing and joking and calling “dibs” on the good spots in the truck bed, just so we can all prop ourselves up on one another’s sunburn-warmed legs, laughing and listless in the creeping twilight.


When we get bored, we nudge each other and point at the jets that pass overhead, piercing Sean Connery’s looming forehead, just above the eyebrow, then disappearing behind his face.


We love the drive-in because we can sneak down the rows of darkened cars, grass sticking to our bare feet, stooping slightly in response to the hissed, “Down in front!” to see who’s kissing whom in the back of whose dad’s car.


After the movie’s over, and after the last infusions of peach-mauve have disappeared from the sky, the cars rumble alive again. They catch us in their headlights as they pass. We lie piled atop each other on our red blanket, pointing at the Big Dipper, holding each other’s hands in the dark, and waiting for the groundskeeper to make us leave.


At the end of this month, Valley 6 Drive-in in Auburn will close for the summer, and we all must wait for spring to bask again in our red-blanketed memories.


Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745 or hedwards@seattletimes.com