Live Through This

Five Things That Fill Me With Childlike Wonder Despite My Usually Feeling Like a Crotchety Old Hag


Christmas has never felt as depressing as it does for me right now. Wrapping paper, tree decorating, Christmas Eve shopping, Christmas movies, even the Mariah Carey classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You”—even the Mariah Carey updated classic, “All I Want For Christmas Is You (Super Festive!)”—none of it is getting me all pumped like it did when I was little.

This past Halloween was bummy, too. My friend and I trick-or-treated a block, then basically stopped right there and shrugged and felt satisfied with the few pieces of candy we’d acquired with half-hearted begging. We noted how sad it was, since we used to go until it was pitch black out and be really specific about which candy we got—but because we just didn’t really care, it wasn’t even really sad, just kind of blah.

I refuse to settle for blah, though! Just because I don’t get excited about the same things that I did when I was a wee lass, I should still be able to get excited about something—something should be taking the place of playgrounds and anything colorful or sparkly and the Rock N Roll McDonald’s (I live in the Midwest, so their fake little car model was THRILLING). If I’m taking my cues from society/culture/peers/Facebook, that would mean…partying…and boys…? Which are OK things to like—more than OK, if you like them!—but those kinds of things bring me more anxiety than they do awe and wonder.

On the other hand, there are some things that blow my mind that wouldn’t have in elementary school. One nice thing about growing up is you become part of a little club where the entire culture of things made for teenagers (or, the part of it that doesn’t suck) suddenly makes sense. When I listened to the Pixies’ Doolittle in the sixth grade, it didn’t really affect me; in eighth grade, it became some sort of a salvation. Freaks and Geeks will never mean as much to me as it does now that I am in high school. When Cecelia is lying in a hospital bed after her first suicide attempt in The Virgin Suicides, the doctor says, “Jesus, kid, you’re not even old enough to know how bad life really gets.” Cecelia says, “Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl.”

Writing about it now, it’s romantic and bittersweet; when you’re actually angsty enough to understand that scene, it sucks. Part of the mind-blowing-ness of the teenager-targeted things you identify with is that they understand a very specific kind of pain so well.

However, a few things satisfy for me a place that’s right in between childlike wonder and teenage angst. These are things that still feel magical, but have enough of a dark or brainier side that I appreciate them in a way now that I couldn’t have in the first grade.

1. The Snowman (1982)

As some Rookie staffers noted when I brought it up in conversation, The Snowman is actually really a creepy movie, in just about every way. But I don’t care! The part where the little boy grabs his symmetrically hanging socks one by one is enough to make me squeal. This movie was a heart-squeezer (my new band name) when I was little and it still, for some reason, gets to me, plus now I have a stronger appreciation for the sad way the story works out. Also, David Bowie narrates the beginning, so I hope you all of you who laughed at me feel really UNCOOL and BAD about yourselves now.

2. Hayao Miyazaki

When I went to the Ghibli Museum, which shows the anime work of Hayao Miyazaki and the inner workings of his brain, in Tokyo with my mom a couple of years ago, I knew I wouldn’t have appreciated the re-creations of Miyazaki’s cluttered offices and his inspiration scrapbooks the same way when I was little, before the references made sense to me and before I liked making collages myself. I teared up at the sight of a bunch of toddlers climbing around inside a four-foot-tall real-life Catbus (from My Neighbor Totoro), and at the fact that I was too old to partake. Thankfully, I was (am) very small, so I lied to the woman working it about my age, took off my shoes, and crawled inside, sitting in pure bliss while swarms of Japanese toddlers climbed around, shrieking at one another and throwing plush ghosts at me. I have been wanted by the Japanese government ever since.

3. Lula

I don’t have any childhood nostalgia for this British fashion magazine, but the photography and other visual-art stories make fashion feel like it did when you were little, when was just about dress-up and fun and imagination, before you started to believe that other people really care about how you look, and that you should pay attention to that. Plus, the writing and interviews satisfy my brain and creative side in a way that wouldn’t have really translated when I was littler, so that’s nice.

4. Tim Burton

Director Tim Burton said he wasn’t scared of ghosts and goblins when he was little, he was scared of teachers and dentists. For those of us who felt that way even after being little, his movies remain topnotch! Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are still magical for being so otherworldly, but socially scared characters like Lydia Deetz and Edward mean more to me now that I’ve had the annoying angsty experiences to give them context.

5. The Sound of Music (1965)

“Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “So Long, Farewell,” and “My Favorite Things” literally make me smile when I am watching them alone in my room on YouTube, plus I get the Nazi stuff now! I feel so smart! (I maintain that the movie should be about an hour shorter.) ♦


  • MarieJo December 26th, 2011 11:24 PM

    You know Miss Tavi? I’m five years older than you. Growing up, I found myself to be a very “growned up” kid, I was bassically a mini adult. Now, being 20 I realized how many childish things make me happy.
    Swinging tops the list. It always makes me feel specially weird and happy.
    Both watching and quoting disney movies (like the aristocats and Alice in wonderland), the music my mom used to listen, hugging my tallerthanme little sister, dancing around, drinking hot chocolate, playing with new hairstyles, putting outfits that only 5 year olds understeand, Ghibli movies (OH MY GOD), writting, sewing teddy bears that end up looking like kangaroos…
    I guess it’s just a matter of time when one realized how much you miss being thrilled, and how boring life gets once you are not agnsty, worried, amused…
    So I just try to get amused every day, on everyday stuff happening around me.
    And that works on keeping me up and happy (so much that my best friend says I’m like a Care Bear…)

  • MarieJo December 26th, 2011 11:25 PM

    I meant, when one “realizes”…
    My bad, sorry :(

  • Maddy December 26th, 2011 11:34 PM

    I was just listening to this and remember the goosebumps when I first heard it. I call this effect “teenage disillusionment”. actually I joined coined the name but I think disillusionment is the perfect word

    • erin December 27th, 2011 12:49 AM

      oh, wow, this totally gave me goosebumps too! I love this song, but the kids make it sound even more meaningful.

  • monkeyfoofoo December 26th, 2011 11:35 PM

    that catbus is amazing. one time driving home I saw a minivan shaped like a cat. I haven’t seen it since.

  • annagracie December 26th, 2011 11:44 PM

    Lovely! On my list as well would be The Muppet Christmas Carol :)

  • youarebananas December 26th, 2011 11:50 PM

    oh my gosh, the sound of music has been one of my favorite movies since i was about four years old–but i only noticed last year that it’s incredibly freakin long. seriously, i can’t believe i’ve sat through it for so many years. but still, favorite ever. also i now understand all the nuns/betrayal/nazis/austria stuff sooo yknow i’m pretty much a pro when it comes to that movie…

  • juliette December 27th, 2011 12:01 AM

    i must’ve watched the sound of music a thousand times before i understood all the nazi stuff. it was actually like my rite of passage

  • December 27th, 2011 12:42 AM

    Thank you for the photo of the Catbus and special thanks for the wonderful description of your experience with it. I’ve been trying to deal with some pretty sad news in the last couple of days, and this has really helped me to reconnect with the happier moments :-)

  • sedgwick December 27th, 2011 12:45 AM

    Unfortunately, I don’t have anything that achieved relevance for me as a child and again today as an ‘angst-ridden’ teenager.

    But I did read Peter Pan by JM Barrie recently (after reading Perks of Being A Wallflower, because Charlie reads it, woo). I feel that this book meets the criteria for a ‘childhood-wonder/teen angst combo’ through the plot development and the character development respectively.
    The adventures that Peter Pan and Wendy have are really exciting and cool and even though I am practically ancient at 15 years old, I still really wanted to be there on the vividly imagined Neverland. This was the childlike wonder.

    The grown-up characters are created with all their flaws revealed, so that you can really understand why Mr and Mrs Darling act the way they do, and later with the adult Wendy as her own flaws develop in her as she grows up. Peter Pan also has a very defined character and is one of the most well depicted and understood by the reader, but he does not develop, which is fitting, as he never grows up. Observing all this is what appealed to me as a teen, yo.

    The ending was also kind of sad, because Wendy, Michael and John all go from being imaginative children to boring adults. It made me really contemplative and quiet, even angsty, for a week, because it seemed inevitable that I would end up a boring adult too.

  • erin December 27th, 2011 12:46 AM

    Oh, this is so good and so true. I totally miss crawling around in play places… like, SO much.

    • timi January 17th, 2012 8:59 PM

      I still do and I just turned 23 :)

  • Adrienne December 27th, 2011 12:54 AM

    Holy poop, Tavi. You just pretty much summed up my feelings these past holidays. I wasn’t as pumped up for Christmas compared to my earlier years. It’s sad though…gone are the feelings of excitement and wonder. I feel like as years go by, I’m gradually turning into a “hag”.

    You’re right about the teenage empathy stuff. Your 4th paragraph really struck me. I now know what all of the hullabaloo of teenagedom is all about (I’m 16)! :)

    I absolutely agree with Hayao Miyazaki. Never gets old. I feel the same way with Wallace and Gromit, all Pixar and Disney films, Spongebob, and Cats the musical.

  • SpencerBowie December 27th, 2011 3:22 AM

    Well…talk about that “home” feeling! I love your list Tavi, but the one I agree with most,(besides you mentioning David Bowie), is Hayao Miyazaki.

    I love Japan. I love the customs and culture. I love the people, fashion, and motherf’in cuteness! I’ve had a love affair with Japan started before Gwen Stefani had Harajuku Girls on the cover of the first album I ever bought on my own!

    But when I was little, I was also obsessed with witches. Anything that could ride on a broom, as my Mom put it! Hence, my Mother bought me Kiki’s Delivery Service on VHS when I nine and my real first love affair with Hayao Miyazaki and Japan started.

    That movie is one of my “Homes”. It means so much to me. Its beautiful, breathtaking, and makes me cry every damn time! But it also gives me such a feeling of bliss. I’ve got on DVD now and pop that sucker in anytime I’m uncertain about the future. I just remember that, like Kiki, I can be carried off by my broomstick any where I wanna go!

    Bliss. ;)

  • Chloe Elizabeth December 27th, 2011 3:49 AM

    Oh Tim Burton DEFINITELY fills me with a childlike wonder. So does going to the movies. My friends laugh at me, because they say I watch movies like a little kid. The movie theater enchants me. As soon as it starts, I sit wide-eyed, completely focused and engrossed. I gasp, jump, laugh, cry, exactly when the creator of the movie wants me to, and I totally don’t even notice until the credits roll. I rarely speak, and I can empty an entire tub of popcorn without realizing it. The movie theater turns me from an angsty, bitter teenager into the most easily fascinated child ever.

  • diny December 27th, 2011 8:10 AM

    yes, that movie should be an hour shorter. everything is okay, then tada tada what happened with the plot? (you know what i am talking about).

  • Marguerite December 27th, 2011 10:18 AM

    I LOVE HAYAO MIYAZAKI! My favourites are:
    1 Howls Moving Castle
    2 Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind
    3 Kiki’s Delivery Service

    And I Loooove Edward Scissorhands so much!

  • Izzy December 27th, 2011 10:46 AM

    This I can identify with a lot. A lot of people consider me as quite a childish person who is totally innocent and knows nothing about the world outside. (This is not true, if you were wondering.)

    The thing I miss most now that I am a teenager is playgrounds and that sort of thing. I have a great weakness for them, and I always have. I also love the Sound of Music and The Snowman! And I find Disney films funny, etc, etc.

    But there are so many things that I veiwed with total reverance and awe when I was little, and now I look at them and think, what?! This especially applies to Enid Blyton books wich I used to adore, and now when I read them I realise they are rascist, biased, predjudiced and quite insulting to different cultures and people, and it makes me sad now that something that seemed so amazing as a child now seems completly irrelevant and against all my ideas and beleifs.

  • annagracie December 27th, 2011 7:48 PM

    Also, yes! Hayao Miyazaki! Spirited Away, anyone?

    • Marguerite December 27th, 2011 8:19 PM

      I first saw that when I was 5 – it scared the he’ll out of me!

    • rubyhobbit December 27th, 2011 9:09 PM

      my favorite from Miyazaki!

    • julalondon December 28th, 2011 6:46 AM

      I LOVE Spirited Away!!! My sister an me used to watch it a lot when we were little; we watched it a couple of weeks ago and now i realized that it was actually a kind of scary movie (im 20 now)..=)

  • TessAnnesley December 27th, 2011 10:28 PM

    this is EXACTLY how I feel about Lula and Tim Burton. Bravo!

  • Hedwig December 27th, 2011 11:59 PM

    Tavi! I’m about to cry with jealous about the Ghibli Museum!!!!!

  • timi January 17th, 2012 8:52 PM

    the snowman also marked my teeny childhood memory big time!!! <3