What stories do you know about your family? Perhaps you have seen or heard of the movie Coco produced by Pixar. It is a sweet tale of a boy who longs to be a musician (and has a great talent for it), but because of circumstances in his family’s past, music is forbidden. Like, seriously, one character smashes Coco’s guitar. After that traumatic event, Coco goes on an adventure where he seeks answers about his family’s past and looks for their blessing to play music. Despite the sad story about this long lost ancestor and his family’s hatred of all things music, Coco knows there’s something about him that was made to play music!
I don’t want to spoil the whole movie, but there is a particular song that I love and that I think captures a central part of the story’s message. It is called “Remember Me”. It is a song a father once sang to his daughter, and it is particularly important when one considers this culture! The father asks that while he is away that she would remember him, treasure him, love him. But I see something more in this song in relation to this movie. He wanted his daughter to remember his story. Coco is a story about stories, and especially family stories, and “Remember Me” is its central theme.
You see, this movie begins with a brief history of the family. At least, its the past everyone knows and has carried on for generations. But as the movie progresses, we learn that part of the story was lost. In fact, one might say it was killed (both literally and metaphorically). Everything that made up this family’s identity, their story, was based partially on a lie. They did not remember the truth. Instead, they lived with this identity, this anger, this distrust for so long that any thought to change it angered them. It was only once Coco learned their story and brought back the memories of his family’s history that they changed. They finally got that missing piece, and their family was made whole.
This story comes to mind because I watched Coco with my daughter this past week. She is still too young to learn everything about her history, but I can’t help but get teary-eyed when I listen to that song “Remember Me”. In the past couple of years, I have delved into my own family’s history. I love studying ancestry, something made evident by the subject matter of my upcoming book. I love learning about the stories of my ancestry. When I began doing research, I had a few pieces of information to work with. I knew that my maternal great-grandparents came from Poland, and I knew of their struggles. I also knew the names of a few other relatives, but that was about it. As I continued my research, I learned so much about where and who I came from. I learned about how my story connected with other people’s stories and with the rest of history! I also learned how the people of my past did and did not shape who I am today.
But I was disappointed with some of my discoveries as well. Most of these disappointments came because I learned of events and people’s stories that I would have loved to have grown up with, but I was never told. There were achievements, travels, failures, sacrifices, and so much more that led my family to where it is today. This history had somehow been forgotten or left to die. No one in my family knew about it, and we could hardly guess how long ago it had been forgotten.
This is where I get back to Coco. We need to remember our ancestors, our past. While Coco and his family do so to keep family preserved in the spiritual world (and thankfully, we can rely on God’s salvation and not our descendants’ faulty memories!), we remember them to preserve our past, the story of us and where we came from. These stories help form our identity, and if we fail to know them, we will have a distorted view of our past and how we view the world. We will be missing part of what makes up who we are or could be.
As with Coco and his family, we need to know and understand the whole story of our past and how it shapes our present. Otherwise, we may exclude things or people from our lives and personal stories that we otherwise would have embraced. Or perhaps you might idolize something that deserves your disdain, which is another lesson Coco learned. We learn and grow from our past. Ignoring or forgetting to learn about it leads to gaps in our understanding and can often lead to misjudgment.
People love stories. We have since the beginning, and I cannot see that part of our nature changing any time soon! Why not learn of our own? We need to remember the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unique. Not everything I learned about my family’s past was fantastic, and it won’t be for you either. We are human; we fail and succeed in a variety of creative ways! But we need to know them anyway. These stories help us better understand ourselves, those around us, and the story of world history itself. We are all brothers and sisters of the same family, and keeping that in mind can change how we view each other. We need to remember. Remember these stories of who we are as people, as families, as individuals. If we do, if we understand more about ourselves and each other, our family story, perhaps we will learn that there is so much that binds us as family. We will be found.
Blessings to you and yours,
~Madelyn Rose Craig
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from out heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.Deuteronomy 4:9