Sunday, November 5, 2023

Mermaid Movie Makes Moving Memories

Last week I described a work-related dinner with 12 men from the HVAC industry. The highlight of the evening was when one guy insisted that everyone share their favorite Disney animated movie. As I wrote last time, my favorite is “The Little Mermaid.”

It had been a while since I watched that film. So, wanting to make sure I got my money’s worth from my $20 monthly Disney-plus subscription, I watched the movie. Twice.

First, I watched the live-action film that was released earlier this year. I heard that some people didn’t care for it, especially since the actress in the starring role is Black. I read a comment online where a person exclaimed, “It just didn’t seem believable with her being Black.” Um, you mean as opposed to it being believable that from the waist down ... she is a fish?!
Anyway, redneck sentiments aside, I thought the live-action version was pretty good. But in my mind, nothing will ever top the original 1989 animated film. It is without a doubt a genuine classic. I know exactly why I am so fond of that movie. You see, a while after it was released, I purchased a copy on VHS tape and then watched it countless times while sitting in the middle of the couch with my six-year-old daughter on my left and my three-year-old daughter on my right. We had such fun laughing and singing along with the music.

To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t even finish typing that last sentence without getting teary-eyed. That was a very special moment in my life, when my girls were young and excitable and filled with wide-eyed wonder, and I was their indestructible, all-knowing, super-dad. Now, over 30 years later, they both are grown up, married, and living in other states, and I could best be described as the destructible, all-forgetting, stupor-dad. 

I suppose my brain could have decided to associate something else with that cherished time when my girls were young, such as a favorite TV show, a special family vacation, or a particular holiday. But in my case, my brain chose to connect an animated Disney movie to that special time. I had almost forgotten until I watched the film again. 
Right after a rousing crescendo, Ariel quietly, desperately pours out her heart while singing the concluding words, “Wish I could be / Part of that world.” Just then my wife walked into the living room and said, “Are you crying?”

“No, hon,” I mumbled. “Uh, a bug flew in my eye.” 

“Really? What kind of bug?” she asked.

“Umm, mermaid.”

One of my favorite words is nostalgia. It comes from the Greek nostos, which means “return home,” and algos, which means “pain.” When you think about wonderful days gone by, and realize you can never go back, it produces a little twinge of sorrow. But those memories also produce more than a little joy. Yes, it’s sad those special moments are over, but it’s joyful that they are forever etched into your memory.
The next time I visit my daughters, I think I’ll show up with a beat-up old VHS tape in my hand. Of course, they won’t have to watch me cry for two hours because who owns a VHS tape player anymore?

I wasn’t expecting an animated movie and its soundtrack to unleash a torrent of fond memories from the days when my kids were young and my hair was brown. I really “wish I could be … part of that world” one more time, just for an hour. But I know that won’t happen on this side of Heaven. But that’s fine, as long as those memories bring a smile — and a tear — to my face. 

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