When the silhouette of a car fills the rearview mirror fast enough to catch your eye, there’s speed involved.
My kids were in the back, and we were heading to school drop-off with my mom in the passenger seat. The car’s speed was enough for a wince and brace, and as the car swerved in the next lane, my mom let out a flurry of declarations about the content of that car’s characters.
The car slid back into my lane, then into the turn lane. We saw it stopped on the side street by a bus with its stop sign deployed. A middle-school-aged kid raced out of the speed demon’s passenger seat, toward the bus. “Ohhh,” my mom and I breathed out together.
“I feel,” I paused, “a bit more understanding for that driver.”
There’s likely a time that everyone has had to do a double-take when a situation, or a person’s motivations, wasn’t clear enough from the surface and your hot take done in a heightened emotion came back to bite you.
But even if you have a closet full of shoes to walk in the footsteps of others, when does it get to the point that you still cannot relate to another person? Likely, it’s because you hadn’t experienced the same past trauma.
I’ve been stewing on trauma since Disney decided to stir it up with their most recent movie.
I sat through the Christmas Day streaming of Encanto quaking in anger. “We don’t talk about Bruno?” I yelled at the screen. “Y’all, that’s some toxic family dynamics.”
The story is about a family matriarch, Abuela Alma, who loses her husband while escaping conflict and is left to raise triplets only with the help of a magical candle. (This is an incredibly abridged version.)
The candle bestows magical gifts on members of the family, except for the main character, Maribel, who looks up at her Abuela sadly as the enchanted house deems her unworthy of magic.
But even before not speaking with grace about a well-meaning son, I had some issues with Abuela sticking up for her doe-eyed granddaughter. Why didn’t Abuela have some words with her house and maybe withhold some upkeep to the casa to figure out why it passed on one of her grandchildren?
To withhold some spoilers, it’s a Disney ending with plenty of forgiving wrapped up in song.
I did not forgive Abuela after the viewing. Yes, she had trauma, but how she let it seep into her family worked me up. It’s taken me a while to find shoes that fit the journey of understanding that character.
When I was a child, my mom only let me ride my bike from one end of the property to the other, maybe about 20 yards. In that distance, bike riding lost all its magic when confined to the safety of the nest. My mom restricted my joy due to the fear that came from trauma in her past.
I’ve fought to stifle that fear my mom planted in me. Recently, my daughter stared down a steep embankment, hands gripping her handlebars. I asked her if she needed help and if I should walk her bike down. In riskier moments, there’s typically a parent with a half-formed shout of caution trapped against the roof of their mouth. That’s always me.
“I’m thinking about it,” she said.
In a heartbeat, she stood onto her pedals and rode down.
Healing the trauma of our elders is not our job, but it felt like the message of Encanto and it’s not realistic. Our job is only to heal the trauma of theirs that inadvertently seeps into us, to stop the cycle.
For every candle blown out, it’s up to us as the younger generations to light new fires where we all can stand without fear of the past.
— Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @TheCMcClure. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.