Chestnut: Hero of Central Park

So Owain was watching this movie in the latter hours of Pizza Night, aka, Friday evening. On Pizza night I drink something fizzy and kind of free range my children. On Fridays I have parented all week and I'm tired. And I haul those cute children, 47 and 28 pounds respectively in a bike trailer to school and back, five miles round trip, five days a week. I got zero carbon emissions but baby, my quads are sore on Friday.

Which is all a defense for why Owain was watching the Disney Movie Channel for Kids offering Chestnut: Hero of Central Park. As I cleaned up the kitchen - by this I mean disassembling the endless disorganized piles of clutter the tides of life deposit there - I was listening to the movie in the other room. Two orphans who don't want to leave their vaguely Hispanic orphanage are adopted by a couple who live in an improbably spacious apartment on Central Park South. The catch is the orphans have a puppy but no pets are allowed in the building, plus their adopted Dad is allergic. Those poor orphans have to sneak a Great Dane puppy named Chestnut into the building and into their new life. Oh, the hi-jinks! The issues! This movie doesn't so much pluck at your heartstrings as hack at them with a razor.

Because the movie featured a dog and scatological humor, when my husband came home from work Owain told him Chestnut: Hero of Central Park was the greatest movie ever made. Which was interesting because when Rhys and I went into the kitchen to talk I told him Chestnut: Hero of Central Park was in fact the worst movie ever made and came up with the hacking at your heartstrings with a razor line which amused me endlessly (to be fair Rhys was less impressed).

I was still chuckling when Owain came into the kitchen, his face wet and serious with pain. "This is terrible! Chestnut died! Chestnut died!". And my heart broke painfully as I watched him go through the terrible agony that true empathy brings. I suspected that Chestnut may not stay dead, so I tried to cuddle him while we went back to the living room to watch the end of the movie.

When I was 8 I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and when Aslan was sacrificed by the White Witch on the Stone Table I was so profoundly sad that I could not function. I could not be consoled. My mother, alarmed, took the book away from me and didn't give it back to me for three days. Those were three dark days. When my mother reluctantly returned it, I read that Aslan came back alive, defeated death. I felt such joy. The purest. In retrospect I see how important this was to my Christianity. The idea that there is something out there bigger than death that deserves our attention is such a compelling one. Easter is such a great story.

Luckily for us Chestnut was not really dead and Owain got to experience intense happiness with just a fifteen minute delay. And there was a moving speech (eye-spraining eye roll) and a huge donation to the orphanage (stay down, pizza) and then the movie was over. But I know those circuits have been opened for Owain, those neurological paths of shocked grief are now there. And I remember what that meant for me, and I guess I wish he could have waited until he was at least eight. He's just six.


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