I recently watched the Disney movie Frozen with my mom. I’d seen it several times before with my own kids, so I was curious as to how Mom would react to it.
Mom was enchanted by the opening voices and graceful snowflakes. She laughed when she saw the trolls, and she commented many times about the cold and snow. As we watched Elsa and Anna struggle to assert their sisterly love, I felt like I was seeing new details of the movie through Mom’s eyes.
I am one of those people who buy whole-heartedly into the Disney magic. My favorite movies are probably Up and Enchanted, though I’m also partial to The Little Mermaid. (I took my husband to see it for our second date.)
What these movies have in common is clear and explicit visual language that is generally easily interpreted. Add in colorful scenes, catchy songs, and unambiguous emotions, and it is easy to see why Mom enjoys animated movies.
We gain most of our information about the world and our immediate surroundings through our eyes. “Aside from the brain, the eye is the most complex and incredible organ in the animal world,” writes John Schmidt on the Best Alzheimer’s Products website. “Vision is our most important sense, the one…that offers the broadest range of possibilities for stimulation.”
Mom spends many evenings watching and singing along to musicals like Oklahoma, West Side Story, and The Sound of Music. She knows them intimately.
I was surprised that even as Frozen kept her attention, Mom was easily distracted by noises and movement around us. She enjoyed the lively action, but could not hold on to the plot. Still, it was a wonderful activity for a rainy day, and we both enjoyed sitting together on the couch and sharing the experience.
It turns out that Disney movies are not just enchanting; they have also helped a family with an autistic child create and tailor an “affinity therapy,” a method of learning life lessons through the child’s affinity to, in this case, Disney movies. Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism tells the story of Owen Suskind, the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind and his wife, Cornelia. An autistic boy who couldn’t speak for years, Owen memorized dozens of Disney movies then turned them into a language to express love, loss, and other emotions. In the process of engaging Owen, the family members became animated characters, communicating with him in Disney dialogue and song.
Regardless of which Disney movie you hold in highest esteem, the power of animation to animate us and provide an emotional accompaniment to our lives is one that we should embrace, especially for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Each Purim, we prepare packages of food to give to friends and relatives. Ah, the amazing junk food we collect, just like Halloween. Some friends, though, spend extra effort making healthy, wonderful treats. I would wait in anticipation each year to see what my neighbor Eva would send us. She was an amazing baker, and we’d devour her bread and cakes with gusto. Last year, the package was accompanied by a silly smiling bowl that I knew would liven up our Purim table. Sadly, Eva passed away last year after Purim. When I took down the funny bowl this past week, I was inundated by a sense of loss. We are commanded to be happy on Purim. So here’s a hearty rice salad that I offer in Eva’s memory. Each one of us is a unique treasure in this world. There are no replacements when we lose someone we are close to. But we can eventually find balance again in what remains. May this Purim be a happy one for all of us.
Brown Rice Salad
Mmm... I love the tangy dressing that coats this rice salad.
1 cup brown (or white) rice
2 ½ cups water
1 purple onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
Sesame seed s for garnish
1/3 cup oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
Place rice and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is cooked. Set aside. Sauté garlic and onion in a large frying pan. Add carrots and zucchini. Cook for about 10 minutes until carrots are soft. Mix dressing ingredients in a closed jar. Combine rice, cooked vegetables, and pepper in a large bowl. Pour over dressing. Toss to coat. Add sesame seeds. Serve.