By Holly Bonner
I don’t know who in my house was more excited about the release of Finding Dory, my two toddlers or my 36-year-old, mid-life self. (Don’t judge me.) We’ve been talking about the movie for months, and I even made my daughters a “Days to Dory” countdown calendar for our kitchen. Every day, Nuala would place a special Dory-themed sticker on one of the numbers, helping us keep track of the days remaining until we could finally see this fish-tastic flick! But it wasn’t until I heard more about some of the film’s new characters that I realized this was more than just a summer blockbuster. For Blind Motherhood, it was Destiny.
Planning For The Movie
My husband and I had been debating on whether or not we would attempt to take both Nuala (3) and Aoife (20 months) to see Dory together. Aoife knows a lot of the characters from both films, but she’s also the type of toddler who can’t sit still for more than two minutes. We agreed he would stay home with Aoife and I would be on my own with Nuala. GULP.
I knew my husband would drive us to the theater. It’s quite far from where we live and has no sidewalks to cross safely if I were to travel by bus. But the thought of carrying a diaper bag, cane, popcorn and holding the hand of my three-year-old filled me with anxiety. I started to wonder if I could really do this… alone? Nuala had only ever seen one other movie, The Good Dinosaur, and her daddy was with us the entire time.
When I told my little girl that it would just be me taking her to the movies, she was so excited.
“Just me and you, mommy?”
“Yup.” I said. (Stomach churning).
“Oh yeah! Bye Daddy. Bye Baby Aoife.”
She couldn’t wait to leave her dad and sister behind to have some one-on-one time, alone with me. I knew I was going to have to put on my big girl, blind mom panties and do this myself. In the words of that famous blue tang, it was time to “just keep swimming.”
I took some time-saving, sanity-preserving measures before leaving the house. I used Fandango to pre-purchase our tickets. I was determined to see the earliest matinee possible. It wasn’t that I worried about the ticket prices, but I knew the theater would be less crowded during a Tuesday afternoon early showing.
I also slipped some child proof containers into my diaper bag. These were containers and drink boxes I knew I could open easily by feel. They were also spill proof to avoid any toddler liquid-kind messes that could potentially cause a movie meltdown.
My husband and I also had a pre-Dory pep talk with our daughter. We explained how I was going to be alone with her in the movie theater. I reminded her how mommy’s eyes don’t work as well as hers. I showed and let her touch my aluminum cane. I refer to my cane as “mommy’s special tool” and my daughters know I use that “tool” to help me see. My husband told my daughter she needed to be on her best behavior, hold my hand at all times and use her “inside voice” within the theater. It was a united front and she appeared to have understood what we told her.
I listened to Aoife scream from her car seat as my husband placed Nuala on the sidewalk in front of the box office. I hopped out of the car and snapped open my cane. “You ok?” he asked. “Uh huh” I said. (Thinking it was too late now to change any plans.) I grabbed my daughter’s hand and we walked into the theater.
My prep work had paid off. I flew through the ticket line and headed straight for the concession stand. We decided on M&M’s and water. (I know. I know. Pathetic movie munchies, but my kid was happy.) Then it was time to get into Theater 15. We had been doing great up until this point, but as I turned the corner towards good ol’ 15, I ran smack into a concession delivery fiasco. Mountains of boxes, plastic sheets on the floor, and wheeled contraptions to carry all the stuff. Even my daughter knew it was a problem. “Mommy, how are we going to get in?” Thankfully, hidden behind the boxes was the actual delivery guy who waved us through like an air traffic controller. Whew! Nuala & I got into our seats and began our M&M and water feast.
I was in my twenties when Finding Nemo was released. Even pre-kids, I saw the movie three times in the theaters. (Remember, no judging.) Finding Dory divulges more about this beloved character’s back story. Through this forgetful fish’s flashbacks, the audience meets Dory’s parents, Jenny & Charlie. Anxious about the complications associated with their daughter’s short term memory loss, they do their best to teach Dory ways to attempt to remember things through silly songs and following seashells home.
When Dory finally does begin to remember where she came from and who her parents are, she desperately wants to return to them. She relies on Marlin (who’s hysterical) and Nemo (adorable) to help get her to the “Jewel” of Morro Bay, California at the Marine Life Institute (MLI). Once inside (No Spoilers Here) we meet Hank (a cranky octopus with seven arms, actually a septopus), Bailey (Beluga whale with a head injury) and Destiny (a nearsighted Whale Shark).
Since we are Dory aficionado’s, Nuala and I knew about Destiny’s character being in the film, but we didn’t know how her disability would be portrayed. Destiny had been Dory’s “pipe pal” when they were babies. They had never met face to face, but spoke to each other through the pipes at the Marine Life Institute that connected their tanks. (FYI this is how Dory knew how to speak whale in the original film.)
When they cross paths again, we see how Destiny is visually impaired. She can’t see things far away and anything she sees close up is blurry. Destiny is badly nearsighted, it’s an eye condition also referred to as Myopia. This poor Whale Shark bumps into things, a lot. She gets anxious anytime she has to swim around her tank, quite similar to the way I got anxious about going to see Finding Dory in an unfamiliar theater.
I immediately felt a connection with this adorable character. And surprisingly somebody else did too. After seeing Destiny bump her head several times, my precious little girl leaned into me and said, “Mommy, you’re just like Destiny. You bump into things all the time.” (Out of the mouths of babes, right?)
The rest of the film flew by and before we knew it, I was calling my husband for a ride back home. I sat with Nuala inside the theater until all the other patrons had left the room.
“What did you think, Nuala. Did you love it?” I asked.
“I did, mommy. It was so good. But I have a question.”
“Why doesn’t Destiny have a cane, like yours?”
“Why does Destiny need a cane?” I asked.
“This way she wouldn’t bump into things as much and she wouldn’t be scared in her tank. You have your cane mommy and your always very brave. You’re never scared.” Nuala answered.
If my sweet little three-year-old only knew the truth. Most days when I go out alone, especially with her, I can’t help but feel anxious. I feel like the entire world is my tank and people sometimes gawk at me similarly to a fish at an aquarium. Believe me, I could totally relate to Destiny on so many levels.
Regardless of my true feelings, here was my little girl thinking her mommy is so brave? Thinking I never get scared? She needed to know the truth.
“Nuala, sometimes even with my cane, mommy can get scared. I worry about bumping into things, but daddy and you are very good helpers. You help mommy feel brave enough to try new things and go to new places alone. I’m so glad you and I got to see Dory together.”
My husband buzzed my phone, indicating his arrival, and we ventured out once more past the towering piles of delivery boxes stacked beside Theater 15. Nuala ran to her daddy with excitement chattering about how fabulous the movie had been and how much she loved a certain shark.
A whale shark with a white cane? Pixar and Disney need to get on that one. I can’t help but laugh to myself when I think about it. Children really are the most amazing creatures, especially mine.
Holly Bonner is a Staten Island based psychotherapist and Director of Education & Outreach for IlluminArt Productions. A wife and mother of two daughters, Holly became legally blind in 2012 after battling breast cancer. She navigates motherhood relying on help from modern technology, a white cane, and her sixth sense provided by eyes in the back of her head! Her website, blindmotherhood.com, chronicles her adventures in parenting and provides useful information for all mommies. Holly lives by the mantra that even without vision, you should never lose sight of life, love and laughter. Her blog is an excellent read, especially if you love the Walking Dead… but even if you don’t!