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Hayden Bixby

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Nostalgia and 'Moonrise Kingdom'

Posted: 08/06/2012 3:18 pm

Fact #1: If characters in Moonrise Kingdom pull out a container of Tang during a picnic scene, the adults in the audience will collectively emit a gasp of recognition.

Fact #2: When said adults react in such pleasurable surprise, your 15-year-old daughter will incredulously, and at a volume sufficient for the whole theater to hear, ask, "What the hell is Tang?"

If you're very, very lucky, this moment of cultural disconnect between your generations will result in a conversation in which you are begged for information about the ancient artifacts of your long-ago childhood.

As it turns out, my childhood memories do include an island not-unlike New Penzance and a family whose heritage is rooted there. They also include sun-drenched adventures: strolling along shoreline that, depending on the tide, may or may not exist during my return trip; cutting through dewy ferns and viciously stinging nettles on my way downstream; picking leeches off my legs after a swim in the lake; biking, without helmets, miles down the highway, just to put a candy purchase on my grandmother's grocery tab. Accompanied by my siblings and cousins, I conducted my "explores" without cell phones and without supervision -- and, yes, sometimes we brought Tang along, just in case.

My own children (and their siblings and cousins) now love visiting the same island, in our own version of Summer's End, but they have recently begun to lament their lack of adventure there.

Thanks a lot, Wes Anderson.

Incredibly, the same daughter who insisted she desperately needed a cell phone now campaigns for a no-electronics rule while on the island. Inspired by Sam and Suzy's adventure, she now says that going on an "explore" is the one thing modern life has stolen from her... and the whole gaggle of kids who are usually spilling out from our beach cabin seem to agree with her.

"Go, then!" (We adults didn't need much convincing.)

Saving the leech-lake and the jungle-underbrush as goals to work up to (the helmet-less highway bike rides are plainly out of the question, ever), we sent them down the same shoreline we walked 30 years ago: no rules, no directions, no curfew. They did have sunscreen and one cell phone, and Diet Coke instead of Tang -- it is 2012, after all.

As I watched them disappear around the point and waited for their return, flipping the pages of my magazine and sitting on the same deck my parents did, I appreciated Moonrise Kingdom for reconnecting my 2012 self to fixtures of my pre-teen childhood: Tang, and the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, and a sense of independence.

I wondered, too, who'll make the movie, 30 years from now, that will help my children and nieces and nephews recall their own unsupervised journeys, where they fended for themselves and discovered the world.

 
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