Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gracious Tears

Last night, we had the grandkids over for the night. Xander is a veteran of sleepovers at Oma and Opa's. But CharleeRose, at two, is just now getting comfortable in our house without Mommy and Daddy there. She has made the discovery that our house, and especially our dog Meg, can be loads of fun. CharleeRose is such a little girl, all of a sudden, it takes my breath away. Her favorite word, it seems, is “shoe.” Maybe it's genetic – a chick thing, and she already has it. After dinner, with relaxing and bringing the energy levels down a bit, we put on a movie we all could enjoy. We chose Pixar's Up. I have seen this film at least thirty times, yet I always well up with tears during the beginning sequence – you know where – as if I'd never seen it before. I also begin to cry, perhaps shriek, at the very opening notes of the original “Pete's Dragon,” but that is from sheer pain. I liked that film the first five or six times our young kids made us watch it, but number seven was agony and after that my days were only razzle dazzle without Helen Reddy in them. I never tire, however, of Up. I admit it: I cry at movies. I'm a sucker for a well-crafted emotional manipulation. Heck, I've even been known to cry at books. With Up, maybe it's because I can relate to Mr. Frederickson, being now of an age myself. Maybe it's simply that the storytellers understand the sad beauty of mutual devotion. Maybe I'm just a softy. Maybe my empathy gene is strong. I did not inherit that gene from my father. It must have come on my mother's side and their tragically unwieldy thirteen letter last name. All I know is that people always told me it isn't manly to cry. I don't care. It's who I am. When I was a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, one of the required classes was a lecture series on American History. I think it was the very first day of class. The lecturer, and also Provost of my college, Cowell, Page Smith, stood up on the stage with a pin clutched between his thumb and forefinger. After we had settled and he knew we were paying attention, he held the pin up high and said, “I could cry at the drop of this.” Page Smith was a noted historian specializing in American women in history. He was a veteran of World War Two and had won a Purple Heart. When I met him in 1967 he was fifty years old, and no one in their right mind would call Page Smith unmanly. Romantic, yes, incurably, but never unmanly. So the words from his lips stuck inside me vividly and for another nearly fifty years. I am proud of the fact that I cry at movies, and books, and my granddaughter's passion for shoes. Page Smith was married to his wife, Eloise, for fifty-three years. Eloise died of kidney cancer in 1995. Page, who suffered from leukemia, died two days later. Reading that, I cried.

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