Before I even start the sentence, because I can’t start the sentence, because I can’t find a way through what feels to me a rushing creek frothing at the banks, forcing its way through a thin singular tube to my voice, I squeak, “This will make me cry.” Tears leak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks. Now, I can speak.
Sometimes, Juan and Crystel pre-empt their conversation with, “This will make you cry.” And, it does.
I’m so lucky.
I quit crying when I was 9. I know the exact day. I stood next to my mother. She was sitting at our dining table holding her book open. A cold cup of coffee in front her. A Pall Mall between her fingers. I was there to tell her that a brother had hurt me. She didn’t lift her eyes from the page. She inhaled deeply on her cigarette, placed it in the ash tray, then picked up her coffee cup. Red lipstick lined the edge.
I turned and walked away.
When I was 19 years old I swore something was broken in me. I had reported the sexual abuse in my family. My parent’s response was to tell me that I was disowned. That I could never come home.
I knew a normal person would shed tears. Though I tried, I couldn’t do it.
Juan Jose’ and Crystel gave me the gift of tears when I was 44 years old. They were seven and eight months old when Jody and I brought them home. I felt safe with these babies. When Juan cried because he was left at daycare all day, I cried with him, knowing the sorrow of abandonment. When they were ten months old, all three of us, the babies and me were crying. Me, because I didn’t think they would ever grow up. Those two because they looked at each other and Juan could see that Crystel was sad and he just couldn’t stand that.
I felt safe because the babies couldn’t talk. They couldn’t tell anyone that Mama Beth was crying. My tears became normal.
When they were little, I’d read to them, “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. We’d sit on the couch, Juan on one side, Crystel on the other. Their heads resting against my body.
I’d read, “A mother held her new baby and very slowly rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she held him, she sang I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
They’d snuggle a little closer when I reached that same spot we always did where my chest filled up and the tears started. “The son went to his mother. He picked her up and rocked her back and forth, back and forth, and he sang her this song: I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my Mommy you’ll be.”
“Let me see,” Crystel would say. “Let me see.” She’d lift up my glasses and touch my tears. “Read it again, Mommy, read it again.”
I continue to have the joy of tears.
I cry when Juan is playing soccer and the players take a knee when a teammate or opponent is hurt.
I cry when Juan and Crystel are warming up before running a cross country race.
I cry every time someone says something good about them, which is often.
The kids know me so well. I had just picked Juan up from his work shift at Davanni’s. He said, “I thought you were going to cry when you watched me walk into work.”
I thought about it. Felt the creek starting to froth at the bank. Then said, “Well, I still might.”
I love my tears.
They make me alive.