Published: 07/01/2011 by Darah Zeledon
Lately, I find myself playing the Disney animated classic, Dumbo, several times a day for the kids. They love it, but in reality I am the one eager to see it over and over again.
Something about this movie not only captivates my brood, but leaves me teary-eyed. I freely admit that Dumbo’s mom, Mrs. Jumbo, is one of my heroes. Surprised? Perhaps a character study is in order.
The beauty of this film lies in its simplicity. First and foremost, Dumbo is a love story, with the strength of the bond between mother and child playing a starring role.
The movie opens with Mrs. Jumbo anxiously awaiting her newborn’s delivery. She looks towards the heavens, and before long the stork arrives toting her bundle. As she unwraps her baby, her wicked-tongued peers taunt both baby and mother about Dumbo’s surprising defect — his giant ears. But Mrs. Jumbo is blinded by unconditional love. She is immune to others’ judgments of whether her son measures up to elephant society’s standards. To her, he is perfect just as he is.
We watch a scene unfold of Mom bathing her baby — content and lost in love. She is enraptured with her child, totally focused on him. She never rushes with him. 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 dotes on her son adoringly and, when necessary, protects him with visceral force against vicious verbal attacks. She is his fiercest advocate, regardless of the cost.
Mrs. Jumbo’s strength of character truly hit home with me. She is a strong woman who has commanded respect for her intelligence, courage, accomplishments and unfaltering determination. At the same time, she is a confident, SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) who appears to have no regrets for relinquishing her starring role in the circus in exchange for being “just a mom.” She gave up her career and the spotlight naturally, joyfully, and without hesitation. She had a vision, stayed focused, and kept her eye on her priorities.
If only the world were that simple.
Admirably, even shackled and locked in isolation, Mrs. Jumbo still manages to nurture her son. She eagerly slips her trunk through the iron bars to bestow affection on little Dumbo. The scene is heartbreaking. Forces beyond her control have separated her from her child, but nothing can truly keep them apart. Mrs. Jumbo reaches out to embrace and caress Dumbo with her expressive trunk, and instantly, both trunks are intertwined in mutual adoration.
Mrs. Jumbo’s trunk silently conveys the epitome of love and patience — the kind I strive for, but, admittedly, often fall short of demonstrating with my own kids. Mrs. Jumbo stands firm against all the obstacles, outside influences and inner conflicts that might affect her parenting journey.
The movie is also a tale of triumph over adversity. Despite the odds stacked against him — Dumbo’s unsightly and unfortunate ears, the abrupt loss of his mother in his life, and his cold-hearted rejection by “elephant society” — Dumbo thrives. The foundation of his mother’s unwavering devotion arms him with the necessary emotional tools to succeed in life, despite their short-lived physical connection.
I think all mothers and children should watch this movie together. In boiling motherhood down to its purest essence, it depicts an era of simplicity long vanished, days for which my heart often yearns.
I hope I can be more like Mrs. Jumbo before my kids grow up. I think we all should.
Darah Zeledon is a freelance writer, blogger, aspiring memorist, and frequent consumer of Disney animated movies. She lives in Hollywood with her husband and five children.