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Gramma’s Spirit Lives On

Gramma’s spirit lives on – Moana

By Pat Hanson, PH.d.

Disney’s latest film has messages in it for all grandparents, including those estranged from their adult children who have “invisible grandkids” they don’t get to see.

grammaEccentric Gramma Tala is central to the entire story. Two-year-old Moana sits captivated while others are horrified as Tala, “keeper of the ancient stories,” tells of Te Fiti, a goddess with super powers. This heritage had been kept secret by leaders for generations. Tala details the day Te Fiti’s life-giving gem heart was stolen. If the heart is not returned, the island will die a painful death at the hands of a Lava demon that lives beyond the barrier reef where no one must ever go.

Gramma Tala later encourages teenage Moana to become a “Wayfinder,” and retrieve the heart to restore her homeland. As Gramma Tala dies she tells Moana she will always be with her. Tata’s spirit takes the form of an illuminated manta ray that matches the tattoo on Moana’s back.gramma

The film has a happy ending of course. Moana reminds us all, even in the most difficult of family situations, to imagine and celebrate the return to our roots, and to think in possibilities. There is always a possibility that you will reconcile the estrangement and see your grandchild again. This invisible grandmother urges you to see the movie at least twice, with children of any age and consider how important grandparents can be and how the legacy we leave can be inspirational.

Here are some takeaways I got from watching this movie:

  • Tatoos are central to the imagery in the film and come to life acting like a Greek chorus with opinions about characters. If you have a cartoon, consider what it might say about your life. It might be a cool thing to discuss with a grandchild someday.


  • Wayfinder is a term first used for a GPS navigation system. Here, it is applied to someone, like Moana who goes out of her way to help or serve others. We estranged grandparents may need Wayfinders to help us. Alienated Grandparents Anonymous (www.aga-fl.org) has 87 support groups in 50 states and 17 countries. Go to their website to find one near you.


  • Moana had to say to herself repeatedly, “I am Moana of Motunui,” to remind herself of her mission. Repeating positive affirmations helps to counter negative thoughts and fears. Do it.



Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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