On Thursday, I spent the day watching movies with children. The students at the school I was working at were having an activities day, and one of the activities was a movie.
In the afternoon, I watched Maleficent with a group of about 65 grades one and two students. One of the students, a small girl with thick glasses in clear plastic frames, whose slight speech impediment made it difficult to understand her, became scared while watching the movie. A young boy began laughing at her.
I was immediately taken back to my days as a sheepish and fearful grade one boy. I remember this event so distinctly that I haven’t ever watched The Little Mermaid through. On one such movie afternoon, when I was in grade one, our class got to watch The Little Mermaid. I can’t remember exactly when in the movie Ursula appears, but I’m sure that it’s very near the beginning.
I remember crying my eyes out in such fear of Ursula that my then teacher had to take me to another room so I could calm down. I can’t remember what I did for the remainder of the movie, but I’m sure it wasn’t finishing it. To this day, I have no idea — or desire to find out — how the movie ends. I still have only a very vague idea of what the movie is about, but I imagine it’s along the lines of some sort of land-walking love story.
All I could think of doing was to ask this little girl to come sit next to me. She did. She then wanted to hold my hand. I wouldn’t acquiesce so she held the arm of the chair I was sitting on. Eventually, I had to find another solution because I needed to ensure that the other students were paying attention to the movie and not distracting others.
I turned to the little boy who had laughed at the little girl and asked him to help her find courage when she became afraid. He sat up slightly straighter than he had been before agreeing. She, in a strange twist, refused to sit next to him until I had sufficiently convinced her that it was the best thing to do.
All this little girl did was, tearlessly, articulate a fear and ask for some comfort, and I couldn’t do that for her. My heart is slowly turning black, I think.