When I was a toddler, I lived with my mum on our own in an apartment. Mum is a single mum and she didn’t always have someone to take care of me. This was especially awkward when she used to have to have a shower, as I couldn’t be left alone for that long. She used to hope I would fall asleep but that didn’t always happen, so she would resolve to put me in my push-chair and bring me into the bathroom where she could still keep an eye on me. As I got a little older, Mum discovered another trick. She could put me in my push-chair and play a film and my clear favourite was Finding Nemo.
I am not quite sure why but I loved that film. I would love to say that I really identified with the story of Marlin, a clownfish searching for his missing son, Nemo. However, I think the beautiful animation of underwater scenes and the calming soundtrack were far more interesting to me at that age. I used to watch it nearly everyday, except for one crucial scene. I used to make Mum skip the scene where Marlin and Dory meet Bruce, the great-white shark and his friends as it used to terrify me. It got to the stage where I didn’t realise that scene was even in the film, and I got quite a shock when Mum forgot to skip that scene. When the film was re-released in 3D in 2013, I still jumped upon seeing the shark scene.
Scary sharks scenes aside, my love of Finding Nemo had a massive impact on my early childhood. I developed a fascination with everything to do with fish. I wanted to learn all about them. Along with Disney Princesses, I had plenty of Finding Nemo merchandise, everything from teddies to sun cream. I loved anything with fish on them. My aunt has memories of seeking out a certain brand of hand soap to have in her house because they had a fish on them. Living near Bray, I regularly dragged Mum to Sea Life, a local aquarium, where most of the staff got to know me by name. I went there almost every weekend. I have fond memories of ‘circle time’ in Junior Infants when the teacher asked me what I did that weekend the rest of the class would respond that I had gone to Sea Life.
Looking back on my fondness for Nemo, it was clear that fish were one my ‘special interests’. It is quite common for Autistic people to have these interests where we love something in an intense manner and spend much of our free time dedicated to researching it. My ‘special interests’ were one the many signs of my Autism that were never picked up on. I have since lost most of my fascination with fish yet I always enjoy going to a pet shop and watching them swim. It has been years since I have seen Finding Nemo, yet I saw the sequel Finding Dory when it came out. I thought the film itself was entertaining, yet it was clearly an unnecessary cash grab that I felt lacked some of the magic of the first film.
I am sure that you are reading this article and wondering what has led me to write article simply about my fond memories of a film about talking fish. Well I must tell you this, recently I was browsing through Spotify, I have been struggling with sleep and I was looking for some relaxing film music. I found a playlist called Cinematic Chillouts. Immediately I was drawn to it. I found a piece of music called Nemo Egg (Main Title) from the soundtrack of Finding Nemo nonetheless. I decided to listen to it, to see if I would recognise it on the off chance. I recognised almost immediately and I was so glad. Listening to that calming sound took me straight back to the most innocent aspects of my childhood, where the thing that took up most of my thoughts was a film about talking fish. Instantly I had found that wonderful sense of innocence for only about a minute. In times as stressful as these, it was exactly what I needed. Now when I am feeling at my worst, I can go onto Spotify and be transported back to that time of my life for a few minutes.
Everybody deserves to have a sacred part of childhood that can never be changed with hindsight, especially through such troubling times such as these. It doesn’t have to be a film about talking fish, but it must be able to take you back to that happy time in almost an instant.