Simba potty trained my daughter.

When Simba was a baby, so was my oldest.

The Lion King was the first movie-theatre movie she attended.  She was so young; my husband and I probably enjoyed it more than she did.  “Hakuna Matata” soon became our mantra, singing it part of our bedtime ritual.  

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When she was potty training, we rewarded her with a quarter for each success.  Even at two years old, she knew exactly what she wanted to buy with her earnings.

“I’m saving up for Simba,” she would say in her toddler-speak, that cute little lisp that she had.

She had accidents.  She had relapses. It took a while, but many successful tinkles later, it was time to celebrate her success.  We took her to the mall where we helped her open the trap door of her bank and watched the coins spew from the bottom, spilling onto the Blockbuster counter.  Some rolled onto the floor. What did a video cost back then? $10? $20? Either way, it was a lot of silver. We gathered them all and the clerk counted them out, quarter by quarter.

He packaged the VHS tape in a bag, and she clutched it.  Victorious. Simba was hers.  

The Lion King became the babysitter when needed.  The Lion King was the entertainer. The Lion King was salvation.  Anytime. Over and over again.  

Sometimes I felt like the video might break with overuse, but it survived.  

The thing is, we could watch it with her.  Unlike those intolerable Barney episodes that also grabbed her attention, we enjoyed this instant Disney Classic.  We all danced together. Clapped. Sang.

“When I was a young warthooooooog….”

She would bring me the VHS tape, singing about how she just couldn’t wait to be king.  She would curl up in my lap and we would laugh together at Timon and Pumbaa.

Years passed.  Buzz and Woody joined the VHS rotation.  Mulan and Ariel jumped in. Pocohontas visited.  

Yet, Simba, Mufasa, Scar, Nala and company still held the position of honor.  

Sometimes I wondered if she would remember all the good times we shared while watching the cartoon together.  And I thought about some of the lessons the movie taught.

Sure there were the simple ones, like when Scar said, “Be Prepared.”  OK. Do your homework. Take an umbrella. 

But in fourth grade, when she was hesitant and nervous to try out for the elite local swim club, it was wise Rafiki’s life lesson that drove her, “Embrace a challenge; you never know where it will take you.”  She wound up swimming for four years in college and built her summer jobs lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons.

Even more years passed.  She graduated from college and moved to San Diego with her then boyfriend.  She was so excited to embark upon this exciting adventure. I worried so, thinking that at 21 she was too young to move several time zones away.  Would she be lonely? Who would make her chicken soup when she was sick?

Simba’s life lesson was, “And the only thing we know is things don’t always go the way we plan.”  

And her plans went awry.

Three months after she made the trek, she and her boyfriend split up.  She panicked. She worried. She cried. Shortly thereafter, her roommate decided to reconcile with his own partner, and she lost her apartment.  Then her department at her company was restructured and her position was eliminated. A triple whammy: when it rains it pours.

Another three years pass.  I think about my daughter today, the day that the newly made Lion King is being released.  I wonder if the new computer-generated effects with all its bells and whistles will outshine the sweet version of her childhood and the memories of the simple days when we watched it on repeat.

She calls about 10:30 every morning on her drive to work.  It’s 7:30 her time. This morning, out of the blue, she asks if I had seen the trailer for The Lion King.  She told me that she saw it as a preview before another movie.

“I teared up, Mom,” she said.

Well, that made me cry.  She does remember. Maybe seeing the new version will transport her back to the same place it will take me.

I have a collection of about 20-something VHS tapes that I have saved all these years. They sit on the shelf, ready to entertain.  In the back of my head, a silly voice tells me to save them for the future grandchildren. Isn’t that crazy? Will anyone even have a VCR to play them on?  Will the tapes have deteriorated? Will my grandchildren feel the same way about The Lion King as my daughter did?  As she does?

For now, my daughter is happy in San Diego.  She has a great job, apartment, and boyfriend.  I do hope that her journey will bring her back east.  Home. To start her own family. Her children will come and visit me. 

I will put on the Lion King for them, whether it is my old VHS copy or one from an online subscription service.   

We will cry at Mufasa’s death.  I will tell them how their mom loved the original.  We will clap. Sing. Dance. I will share the potty training story.   It will be a different time, a different world.  

It’s the Circle of Life.

Melanie Wilson teaches women entrepreneurs how to write better through a series of Business Writing Bootcamps. She runs a local chapter of Believe, Inspire, Grow (BIG) a women in business empowerment group, covers the education beat in Summit, NJ for TAPinto Summit and does the marketing for a local professional theatre company. She lives in Summit, NJ and is watching her children slowly leave the nest.  This column will take a look at any and all of the above.  You can reach her at melaniewilsonsummit@gmail.com.