How Pixar’s “Piper” Took Me Back To Wrightsville Beach

How Pixar’s “Piper” Took Me Back To Wrightsville Beach

Pixar’s latest short proved both adorable and memory-triggering for this somewhat-grown-up viewer.

For the first decade and a half of my life, I spent a week of every summer at my grandparents’ house in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. It was an old house, the doors still off-kilter from when a hurricane knocked the whole thing over long before I was born, and it sat right on the sand dunes the town had built after that storm. The repetitive sloshing of the ocean, mere yards away from the back porch, was constant background noise, and every breath I took brought its salty taste to my tongue. I spent countless hours at that beach building drip-castles with my sister, playing paddleball with my mother, chasing seagulls and digging up coquinas with my brother, splashing through the waves with my father, and taking long walks to collect seashells with my grandparents.

After Grandma died, almost four years ago now, her side of the family sold off the beach house and those trips came to an end. As I entered college and started going on new, exciting trips of my own – a road trip with friends to Chicago, a semester working in Disney World – those days at Wrightsville Beach, no longer a regular part of my life, faded to the back of my memory.

Though Pixar has found success and acclaim in feature-length productions, their roots are in short films. Every Pixar film is still accompanied by one of these animated “shorts”, so when I went to see Pixar’s “Finding Dory” with my cousin over Independence Day weekend, we first saw Pixar’s latest short, “Piper.”

First I heard and saw the waves, splashing on the sand. Then I giggled at the flock of sandpipers, noting to my cousin that the way they ran back and forth, away from and back towards the ocean, was exactly how they behaved in real life. I cooed over the baby bird, the eponymous Piper, a ball of feathers reluctantly learning to leave the nest and feed itself. I leaned forward as I realized that the little shellfish the sandpipers were digging up to eat were coquinas, hunted by their bubbles, just like my father taught my brother and I to look for. And when little Piper failed to notice the wave bearing down at her until the last second, I gasped as the memories hit me with equal force. Once, when I was little, I was swamped by a wave in the exact same way. There in the movie theatre, I saw the water bearing down on me. I felt the salt and sand rushing into my face and my father’s arms lifting me up and dunking me in the water again and again to clean me off before he finally carried me back to shore, where I sat huddled in a towel for a long time, wary of the sea – just like Piper sat shivering in her nest, refusing to go anywhere near the water.

But just as I eventually returned to swim in the ocean again, over the course of the short Piper returned to the shore. She realized that the ocean, though scary and powerful, wouldn’t hurt her if she was smart about how she approached it. And the pure joy in Piper’s eyes – the one part of her body that revealed her to be an animated creation in this photorealistic film – as she finally conquered her fear of the waves and discovered the fun of jumping around in the water brought tears to my own eyes.

My cousin can attest that I spent the short’s credits with my hand over my heart, saying “Oh my goodness!” over and over. Pixar’s “Piper” touched me, but not because the short was adorable, which it was, nor because it was a fantastic portrayal of the trauma that creates fear in addition to the commonly-portrayed process of getting over a fear, which it also was. “Piper” took me on one more trip to Wrightsville Beach, to stay at my Grandma's house and play in the sand and the sea, four years after I had to leave it behind.

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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The Football World Loses One Of Its Finest Players

Bart Starr passed away and NFL players, coaches, and fans all mourn the loss of the Packer legend, but his life and career will live on in hearts of Packer nation forever.


Bart Starr passed away at the age of 85 in Birmingham, Alabama. The NFL lost a great player. The Green Bay Packers lost a hero. And, the world lost a true gentleman. Starr's legacy has surpassed his accomplishments on the gridiron. He inspired not only his peers but the generations that have come after him. He is — and always — will be remembered as a Hall of Famer, a champion, and a Packer.

Bart Starr was a Packers legend. Starr led Green Bay to six division titles and five world championships. As the quarterback of Vince Lombardi's offense, he kept the machine going and executed the plays like no other. His mastery of the position was a large part of the Packers success in the 1960s. Starr was also the perfect teammate for the perfect team. His leadership put him in command of the Packers. Starr's time in Green Bay will not be forgotten by former players, coaches, and the fans.

Bart Starr's resume is rivaled by few in NFL history. He played in 10 postseason games and won 9 of them. He led the Packers to victory in Super Bowls I and II and won the MVP award in both games. He was the MVP of the league in 1966 and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960s. The Packers retired his number 15 and Starr has been inducted into the Packers and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After his playing days, Starr would become the head coach of the Packers. He could not repeat the success he had on the field from the 1960s teams. His coaching years do not take away from his legacy as one of the all-time great Packers. Starr was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

One of Starr's last visits to Lambeau field was on a cold November night in 2015. Starr and his wife attended a ceremony in which the Packers retired Brett Favre's jersey number. Starr was the perfect personification of what it meant to be a Packer. His most heroic moment came in the 1967 NFL Championship Game. The Ice Bowl came down to a third and goal in Lambeau Field's south endzone against the Dallas Cowboys. Starr came to the sidelines and bravely told Vince Lombardi that he can sneak it in for a game-winning touchdown. Lombardi then replied, "Run it, and let's get the hell out of here." Starr ran a quarterback sneak for the game-winner and the Packers were off to Super Bowl II. Without Starr, Green Bay would not have won a second straight Super Bowl. His leadership in big game moments will live with Packers fans for a lifetime.

Vince Lombardi: A Football Life - The Ice Bowl

Starr leaves behind his wife Cherry, his son, and three granddaughters. Packers fans will have a tight grip on the memories Bart Starr and the 60s teams created. Starr left behind a template for being a Green Bay Packer. He also left a template for being a good man and a gentleman of the game of football. He was a competitor and a leader. Packer nation mourns for the loss of one of the finest human beings the game has seen.

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