Mindscapes and Movies

April 7, 2012

The concept of memoir has been screwing with my head but it’s done and for completion’s sake I’m going to post it here. Ahem.

Mindscapes and Movies

I think I’ll always associate my grandmother’s strokes, and subsequent death, with the Muppets.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally loved the Muppets, and still do. They were in no way responsible for what happened, and their optimism, wit and general charm only helped what was an admittedly awful period for me. But, because my mind operates like a jukebox and categorises stages in my life by films, television shows, books, music (soundtracks) and comics, I’ll never be able to hear the Muppets’ song Pictures in My Head and not think of the death of Norma Isabel Mitchell.

I saw the 2011 film, titled simply The Muppets (because why not?), towards the end of January 2012. This was a week after Norma had suffered a stroke, from which she almost recovered, and a day after she had her second one. I had roughly 24 hours to accept the fact that she would never wake up. But I wanted to see my friends, to talk to people who were not directly involved, and to see the damn Muppets movie; I wanted to enjoy myself, if only for an afternoon.

The South Bank Cineplex’s fifth cinema is enormous. Once an official IMAX theatre, it seats 475 and is certainly the biggest inBrisbane. The tickets are crazy cheap, the ground floor’s candy shop has a decent selection, and for some reason there is a small café outside cinemas one to four. I have never known anyone who has been to the café.

Amidst the foyer’s neon lights, stench of popcorn, and sounds of arcade games and movie trailers, I met my friends. There was Sam, (male; medium height; brown hair), a long-time friend from high school, and Rosie (female; short; blonde) and Alex (female; tall; a combination of every colour), also long-time friends from our (sister) school. We were all twenty-something, and not as close as we used to be, so the discussion was at least initially generic and concerned uni, work and dating. I may not have been a huge contributor to that last topic, but the catch-up went well.

A few minutes before we saw the film, I reminded everyone that Sam and I had recently come back from a tour ofEurope.

“Oh yeah, we’re doingSouth Americaat the end of the year,” Rosie interjected.

“Brilliant, where will you two be going?” I asked automatically, only caring slightly.

“No, we’re all going. All four of us.” She said this as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. I should clarify; I had never discussed this with her, or anyone else.

Eventually we reached the film itself. Right before it started, Sam quietly asked me about Norma. I told him the simple truth; that she was dying but we were going to be okay, and if nothing else were very proud of her for making it to 93 with her sanity and body intact. Such was my blunt, almost rehearsed attitude that the conversation lasted maybe a minute in total.

Finally, the movie started. It was fun, bright and endearing to begin (and end) with, and would have succeeded as the form of escapism I so sorely wanted if not for a particularly sad and poignant song. Naturally the song in question, Pictures in My Head, involved a puppet of a frog reminiscing about puppets of unearthly musicians, a stereotypically-Swedish chef, an alien daredevil, and a bear who was also a terrible comedian. Oh, and his love-interest Miss Piggy, who can never really be explained.

It was sad, sweet, regretful, hopeful and lovely. I knew from the very first lines, “Is there more I could have said?/Now they’re only pictures in my head,” that the song would encapsulate a good portion of what I was feeling.

I knew that of course there was more I could have said, because hypothetical questions like that can have whatever answers you can imagine. I also knew that feeling guilty was pointless, and undeserved as I usually considered myself a loyal grandson. But knowing these things did not stop me from crying silently, from feeling like a rude and selfish family member, and from simply feeling sad that unlike Kermit the Frog I would never again have an opportunity to talk to my loved one.

The song lasted almost three minutes, then the film resumed, the credits rolled, we considered it a success, I said goodbye to Sam and Rosie, and Alex finally dropped me home.

Later, after the mix of optimism and depression had sunk in, I realised how I would catalogue this awful but necessary stage of my life. Like The Lion King to my memories of a happy childhood, likeSouthPark to my teenage angst, like the comics and music of Scott Pilgrim to my hipster/geek period at university, I could now, unfairly, associate the worst memory of my life with one of the best examples of pure optimism and charm in movie history.

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