Dear Teen Kaye…

I’ve written letters to my future self, but what about my past self? She’s long gone, so maybe writing from that perspective is pointless. But I’ve always wished I could somehow reach into the past and let my child and teenage selves see the future. After all, as a teenager, I was actively planning not to have a future.

It’s hard to imagine what my exact thoughts would be. I’d be in disbelief, but what would I, at 16, say to myself at 28? Really, I have no idea. But I know what I, at 28, would say to myself at 16. Read the rest of this entry »

Keepsakes

When I was a toddler, I had two very favorite items: a teddy bear I called “Kathy”, and a blanket I outgrew in size before kindergarten.

At night, I clung to these items. I remember taking “Kathy” to school, keeping her in my backpack, taking her to summer camp, and even taking her to middle school on one occasion.

My bear and my blanket were old. They were kept clean, but obviously worn and on the receiving end of a lot of love. So, what happened to my childhood treasures.

My blanket was lost first. I still remember its pattern. Fully red one side, the side my mother wrote my name on, and a red and white plaid texture on the side with a rainbow patch in the center. In proving one of the many disadvantages of being the older sibling – and one of my reasons for despising the role – my mom had me give my blanket to my sister for naptime in kindergarten. It was intended to be only for the year. However, anyone who’s ever had a five-year-old can tell you they’re not responsible with things that don’t belong to them.

At the end of the year, my sister left my treasured blanket behind and it was donated. I don’t remember my reaction, but I can’t imagine it was anything less than angry crying, especially because that was the very reason I didn’t want to give my sister my blanket. But “you’re the big sister, you’re supposed to be nice to your sister and set an example”. How about don’t have more than one child if you don’t want to be a role model? My beloved blanket was never replaced. Not that it could be, but she could’ve tried.

As a result of losing my blanket, I clung to “Kathy” more than ever. But sadly, she too was lost and I never learned how.

We moved many times during my childhood. We moved to a new home every year, and to a new city every time I graduated from a school. The last city move was in between school years, which shattered me because I no longer had even that small amount of security. Sadly, this is the move where my loved teddy bear vanished. We had to move all of our belongings to storage for a period of time. I don’t know if Kathy never made it to the storage unit or never made it out, but when we retrieved our things, she was nowhere to be found. Since I was a teenager, I didn’t cry angrily and stomp, but I was heartbroken. On the surface, it’s not a big deal, but it was that one last straw that topped an insurmountable pile of them.

As an adult, I discovered I grew to be somewhat of a hoarder. While I can throw things away, it’s a very difficult task if the item is something I cared about, no matter how long ago. I have no doubt losing my childhood keepsakes planted the seeds for that. It’s not something that affects my daily life, so I see no need for professional intervention, but when I remember my childhood, I still miss my bear and blanket a little. My childhood overall is not one I would repeat, and those treasures were some of the light I had at that time. I have several stuffed toys and bed blankets now, but none of them return the childhood feeling.

Let’s Talk About: Luisa

To avoid confusion, this is Luisa:

Luisa hugging Mirabel

I avoided talking about Encanto on my blog thus far because this is not a movie review blog. But “slice of life” goes only so far.

In my opinion, Encanto is one of the most relatable movies that has ever been made. Hard not to relate to film where the central theme is generational trauma. That’s a heavy topic! I have never been able to see something of myself in so many characters in one film.

Luisa is my absolute most favorite. Prior to seeing the film, I expected Isabela to be my favorite because she’s all about flowers, which are the most gorgeous things in the world to me. But she was a jerk until roughly the last twenty minutes of the film, and I don’t like mean characters. Stoic, standoffish, “mean but they really care”, sure. But not purely mean, and while we get the reason for it, it doesn’t really explain her behavior. But I’ll talk more about Isabela in another post.

A glance at my left sidebar will reveal the video of Surface Pressure to your eyesight. This is Luisa’s signature song, where she musically explains the tremendous pressure she feels and weight she carries. Since this is Disney we’re talking about, the visuals are dazzlingly magnificent – nothing less expected from Disney – but the only song that has ever hit me the way Surface Pressure does is Show Yourself from Frozen 2. It took four re-watches before I stopped crying to that.

For me, the most hard-hitting line in this song is:

“I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service!”

I… just… I… damn! I was not prepared for that when I first watched Encanto. Holy cow! Did Disney really sum up my entire existence in one line? Did… did they really do that?
But if it stopped there, I wouldn’t have more to say. The best way I can sum it up is this: Who gave Disney permission to put my life in a song? Who did it?!

“Who am I if I can’t carry it all?”

“I hide my nerves and it worsens, I worry something is gonna hurt us”

“I think about my purpose, can I somehow preserve this?”

“Line up the dominoes, a light wind blows, you try to stop it toppling, but on and on it goes!

“Give it to your sister, it doesn’t hurt, and see if she can handle every family burden”

“Who am I if I don’t have what it takes? No cracks, no breaks… no mistakes… No pressure!

Alright, Disney, you can stop now! I’ve had physical pain that hurt less! I do not attend films with the expectation of being crushed by feelings!

Some of the lyrics in the Spanish version are more heartbreaking.

“Something troubles me and it’s getting worse, I must save everyone”

“The picture of me I display shatters in a moment”

“Can I ever get rid of this cruel weight?”

“She will hold all our foundations”

“See if she can hold even our grief”

“What if I fall down and can’t be the one I must be? Without pressure, without weight?”

I said that’s enough, Disney! Goddamn! Therapy is not as hard hitting! I did not ask for my trauma to be personified on the big screen, let alone in an upbeat, seemingly innocuous song in a family film.

Show Yourself hits me hard because it’s a powerfully uplifting ballad about self-love, whereas Surface Pressure crushes me for tearing apart just about every facet of my being and putting it into words. Disney really decided, “You face your demons today.” They could’ve asked permission at the very least.

Outside of Surface Pressure, Luisa continues to be an overall precious character. I love how Disney portrayed her. She’s big and she’s proud of her strength, but she’s not dumb – a common stereotype of strong characters in media – she’s not ugly, she’s loving, and she’s emotional. It’s kind of glossed over, but the movie shows the problem is not Luisa’s supernatural strength, but how it’s taken advantage of. That is definitely an important distinction to make. Nothing is wrong with Luisa, and her gift is not the problem. What’s wrong is how she’s treated.

I hated being the older sibling, but I would kill for a big sister like Luisa. The scenes where she gets hysterical are supposed to be funny, but they only make me sad for her. She is that precious. There is a part of the fandom that imagines Luisa as shy and non-assertive, and I love that idea!

Encanto is intended to become a series, similar to how Frozen became its own franchise, and whatever happens, I really hope Luisa doesn’t turn into a caricature of her muscles. Disney really has good characterization for her in the movie. I pray they keep it. Let her have character development (like learning to assert herself when necessary), but keep her the same at heart.