I don’t hate musicals, I’m not anti-ABBA, and I’m definitely not opposed to a Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan duet. To be honest, I loved the first Mamma Mia! movie when it came out in 2008. I loved it so much that I dragged both my parents out to the cinema to see it with me because seeing Mamma Mia! on the big screen is an Experience. After I moved away for college the following year though, leaving my parents and the only home country I’d ever known behind, the movie came to mean so much more.
To leave home like Sophie does at the end of the movie is an incredibly difficult decision for anyone but even more so for young adults who fear their parents’ future livelihood rests largely on their shoulders. That’s how I felt when I migrated to the U.S. at age 17 to pursue college degrees in economics and international relations (I would later swap international relations for public relations before going for a third degree in film and gender studies). I had big plans but also major anxiety about whether or not I would be successful, if I would ever be able to provide for my Caribbean parents like they had for me, and if I would ever be half as proud as they were (and still are) of whatever I accomplished. Like Sophie, I also thought about staying with them and for them instead.
For a long time after I left home, I couldn’t make it through Meryl Streep’s “Super Trouper” performance during which she shares knowing glances with her on-screen daughter and I sure as hell couldn’t sit dry-eyed through the last scene where she bids her farewell. I knew firsthand how simultaneously love-filled and painful both instances were so I swore off one of my favorite movies for 10 years. Each time I visited home, my mom would suggest a viewing and I would shut her down with some phony, mundane excuse but really, I just didn’t want to relive my and Sophie’s departure all over again. It felt too close to my own story and, without a sequel for either of us, too uncertain a time for me to enjoy what was supposed to be a feel-good movie.
Painful as it was though, that departure was exactly what I needed to become the woman I am today. I’ve traveled so much farther than the tiny twin islands I call home. I’ve met so many wonderfully smart and interesting people. I’ve jumped out of airplanes, taught college classes, signed so (!) many (!) apartment leases, and even driven myself to the emergency room a few times. I learned what it means to be a feminist and I quickly and enthusiastically became one. In that time, too, I fell in and out love — romantically and platonically — learning more about myself with every heartbreak.
I know that not everyone I meet will share my love of Meryl Streep, ABBA cover songs, and bedazzled bell-bottom pants, but that love has always kept me close to home. It became the soundtrack of my journey through early adulthood — a love letter to myself, to my mom, and to my life at home with my parents. I knew that one day I would be able to watch Mamma Mia! again and smile because my sacrifices had been worthwhile. And like Sophie, I’ve returned home to pay my dues. So I guess… Mamma Mia! Here we go again!
If you see the wonder of a fairytale, you can take the future even if you fail.