Somehow it's very fitting that Totoro has sparked Maeve's imagination so much, since only the very young are generally able to see that particular guardian of the forest. We spent some serious time at the park yesterday trying to track him down, but no luck. She kept telling me Totoro has a long tail and takes long naps, as if those two facts were somehow linked.
I saw my first Miyazaki movie in college, when Spirited Away came out, and My Neighbor Totoro was probably the next one I saw. I fell in love with the beautiful images of the Japanese countryside, as well as the totally imaginative characters that inhabit his stories. And I love how encouraging so many of his stories are to young girls, that their creativity, bravery, and kindness have such an impact on the worlds they inhabit.
The younger sister in the movie, Mei, is close to Maeve's age, and it was one of the benefits of picking Maeve's name, that I could call her Mae sometimes, because I love the character in the movie. One of her best moments is when her Dad sends her outside to play, and she tosses off "Gotta go get some flowers." It's just so matter-of-fact, so little kid. And now that I have a kid that age, I see how perfect it really is.
Maeve and Mei have a kinship, in seeing things that others don't see. I hope Maeve keeps looking for her Totoro for many years to come.