Lately, I find myself playing the Disney classic, Dumbo, several times a day “for the kids.” But in reality, I am the one eager to see it over and over again. And each time it is on, something about it captivates us all and leaves me teary-eyed---nostalgic and yearning for an innocence long gone. So I decided to investigate a little further. Armed with pen and paper in hand, I took a few notes and embarked upon a character study of Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo’s mom.
First and foremost, Dumbo is a love story. And the beauty of this film lies in its simplicity. The strength of the bond shared between a young elephant calf and his mother is compelling. This is also a tale of triumph over adversity. Despite the odds stacked against him---his unsightly mutant ears, abrupt loss of his mother and cold-hearted rejection by the respective “elephant society,” Dumbo thrives. The foundation of his mother’s unwavering devotion---in spite of their short-lived physical connection—arms him with the necessary emotional tools to succeed in life.
The movie opens with Mrs. Jumbo anxiously awaiting her newborn’s imminent arrival from the baby stork. She looks towards the heavens enthusiastically. Upon unraveling her baby, her observing wicked-tongued peers harass both baby and mother about Dumbo’s “defective” ears. Blinded by unconditional love, she is immune to others’ judgments of her son not measuring up to elephant “society’s standards for beauty and perfection.”
We watch a scene unfold of Mom bathing her baby---content and lost in oblivion. A stern female with all others, she is totally relaxed, enraptured in a moment with her child. She never rushes her time with him. Evidently a “helicopter mom,” she dotes on him adoringly and when necessary, protects him with a visceral force against others’ vicious attacks. She spends quality, non-multi-tasking time tenderly playing with him, despite her mounting domestic responsibilities. Her agenda is her child. There is no existential conflict plaguing her.
Mrs. Jumbo’s strength of character truly hit home with me. She is a strong woman who commands respect for her intelligence, courage and unfaltering determination. She is a confident, SAHM (stay-at-home-mom,) and never experienced post-partum depression or suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after relinquishing her starring role in the carnival in exchange for being “only a mom.” She gave up her career (the spotlight) naturally, joyfully and without hesitation. She had a vision, stayed focused, and kept her eye on her priorities.
Admirably, even shackled and locked away in isolation, she still manages to nurture her son as she eagerly slips her gesticulating trunk through the iron bars to bestow affection upon her innocent him. The scene is heartbreaking. Mrs. Jumbo embraces and caresses Dumbo with her expressive trunk. Instantly, both trunks are intertwined in deep mutual adoration. It is tragic---they cannot be together anymore.
Her trunk silently conveys the epitome of love and patience; the kind I strive for, but, admittedly, fail to demonstrate with my own kids--- many times.
I think all mothers and children should watch this movie together. It depicts an era of innocence and simplicity long vanished, days for which my heart often yearns.
I hope I can be more like Mrs. Jumbo before my own kids grow up.