Dear Aunt Jeneé,
I really miss you and you have not even left yet. I loved going to see Frozen 2 with you.
Saturday night, as I packed my bags in her North Carolina bedroom, Ella Grace, my nine-year-old niece, wrote these words in pink ink on the first page of her Elsa journal.
“Frozen” is one of our special things. We saw the first one when she was just three — the prime age for Disney princess adoration. “Let It Go” became an anthem. She hopscotched right past imaginary friends and made Elsa, Anna, and Olaf a part of our lives. They even blanketed her bed. It feels like we’ve been building a snowman ever since.
We FaceTimed when the trailer for the “Frozen” sequel dropped months ago. I admit it. My excitement matched her own. A chance to see a movie with my little ducky, to lose ourselves in the magic, to mark another memory down for auntie-and-niece. Sign me up every single time.
Friday, right after school on opening day, my sister and I picked her and my nephew up. I bought tickets to the “fancy theater,” the one with reserved reclining seats, crispy visuals, and a booming soundsystem. She’d never seen anything like it.
We plopped down into the push seats, my big sister, my niece, my nephew, and I. But only two of us were dressed alike: My niece, in her Anna dress, and me in an Elsa crewneck.
Truthfully, she loves Elsa and I love Anna, but it worked. (In the end, she kept both looks.)
“Frozen 2” is a winter wonderland of story lines. Yeah, it’s the sequel of the first Disney film to make sisterhood the real love story.
But it’s also a film about Elsa stepping into her power, Anna striking out on her own, and both sisters learning the truth about their family history. Oddly enough, it’s also a story of reparations and accountability, too. Seriously, Arendelle is a superpower that hurt indigenous people and has to make things right.
For me, as I sat there with my family, it was also a story about loving each other from afar.
For most of my life, I’ve had a long distance relationship with my sister. We’ve almost always lived in different states, and with five-and-a-half years between us, we are from different generations. And with different fathers, she is white and I am biracial, a black woman — so in many ways, we move in different worlds.
Still, we are Althea’s daughters. We have the same chin. Our eyes are shaped the same. We laugh loud and geeky, kinda like our mama. Our toes are long. We believe in God, hot chocolate, and Toni Braxton’s vocal chords. We are each other’s family.
For us, loving each other comes natural. She is the Elsa to my Anna.
Staying in touch was never hard. Not until recently. She’s a teacher, a wife, a mother of two, and time and quiet for conversations are a challenge. It doesn’t help that I’m a little career-committed and the kind of busybody who doesn’t always pick up the phone. We’re working on it.
Now I have a long-distance love with my niece, too. But she doesn’t take no for an answer. She has the patience of her grandma and the determination to get what she wants, too.
She calls and calls until I pick-up. She sends texts. Her FaceTime calls come after school and sometimes before bed. She never stops asking me to move. She introduces me to friends and shows me her homework. She magically predicts the nights when I am probably going to eat a salad for dinner and suggests I have ice cream for dessert.
Heard you, Ella Grace.
“Frozen 2” finds everyone needing to let go. Kristoff has to let go of Anna, understand her power, and be aware that her sister will always be a priority. Anna has to recognize her own magic, let go of Elsa, and trust her to make the right choices. Elsa has to let go of her fear and step into the unknown. Everyone has to let go of the pretty lies they like to believe and make peace with the hard truths.
But it’s in letting go that their love grows stronger. So often, we focus on what love looks like up close. In “Frozen 2,” in the Enchanted Forest, it’s about what love looks like when we’re apart or even if we just give each other a little space to be ourselves.
Being close doesn’t always mean living in the same space. Love doesn’t have to mean we’re exactly alike. And letting go doesn’t always mean saying goodbye. Sometimes, it means even when you’re in town, your niece wants to invite her best friend over to take part in fashion shows and gingerbread house traditions. She’s growing up.
I bought my niece that Elsa journal set to hold all of her big ideas and dramatic plans. It was meant to be a notebook she can keep by her bed, something to remember me by when I’m away.
But this journal is so me and you can talk, so you will write in this journal and send it back to me and then I’ll write and send it to you and we’ll send the journal back and forth. Love you.
Love, Ella Grace.
She even found lipstick to rub onto her lips so she could seal the inside cover with a kiss.
If that’s not worth melting for, nothing is. Long live our snowman.
Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.