Friday, July 24, 2015

The First Time I Saw My Favorite Movie

I've had several favorite movies in my lifetime, but the very first one I remember absolutely loving was Follow That Bird, which was released in theaters when I was four years old.  Having watched Sesame Street for as long as I could remember, the familiarity of the characters was part of what drew me to the film.

It was the first I ever saw in theaters, and my sister and I did not just stop at a single viewing.  I seem to remember that we were taken back multiple times (maybe four?) by different family members.  It was more than the characters that drew me back time and time again.  I'm sure, now, it's the movie's theme of family and of "all kinds" belonging on Sesame Street.  

At this early age, I'm not sure I had the vocabulary to talk about my CP.  I'd heard my parents reference it.  I'd been hospitalized by then (once for pneumonia and once for the first surgery I could remember: heel cord releases on both sides.)  I'd been to school for two years by then and while nursery/preschool isn't super clear in my memory, I do remember that no other kids were like me.

So, this notion of a place where everyone belonged, no matter if they were monsters or Bert and Ernie, or grouches or dogs or kids or adults felt good to me.  I saw people of all colors, and though I didn't see many disabled people represented, I saw Linda, who is Deaf.  She was always portrayed as a whole person: intelligent, capable, and the people around her learned sign language so they could all communicate.  Linda had a pivotal role in the end of the film, too, and while I'm not sure it resonated then, it does now.  

Watching Follow That Bird as a child always made me feel at home, and like I had somewhere to belong.  The notion that even if something scary happened and Big Bird got taken away, all of his friends and family on Sesame Street would drop everything to find him was so reassuring to me.  It's hard to articulate, but the feeling of belonging and of being valued is there even 30 years after the fact.  It's a great reminder that representation matters so very much.

Tara and me on our fourth birthday.