The Joy of Tears

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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.

DSCN0210I 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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.

Crystel and Antonio June 2008

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.”

Playing games on McGruff (me).

Playing games on McGruff (me).

“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.

IMAG0013The 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.

 

 

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No Merit Badge For This

davannis“After Penn Fest, Ryan wants me to come over and hang out and then we’ll go to the Mall of  America”, Juan said.

Juan would be finishing up his shift at Davanni’s. His second job. He was a line judge for soccer over the summer. A fellow cross-country runner told him that Davanni’s hired 14-year-old’s. His cross-country coach introduced him to the hiring manager.

I gave him a sideways look. “Who else are you going with? Who are you going to meet up with? I’ll need more information.”

“Just us,” he said.

I gave Juan the usual response. “I’ll have to check with his parents.”

We were driving home from Boy Scouts. Juan had hoped to have his final three merit badges checked off. (I was, too. If he’s in scouts, I’m in scouts.) He’s aiming to get his Eagle Scout by the end of this year.

Turning on Penn Avenue from 50th Street, I asked him. “What would you do if there was a fight in the food court?”

Eagle Project, Antiqua Guatemala

Eagle Project, Antiqua Guatemala

He dodged, displaying a typical defensive teenage move. “Ryan and I won’t be in the food court.”

I persisted. “Still, what if you were and a fight broke out?”

Juan described some superhero ninja moves he’d make leaping over railings, running faster than the speed of light. Then he paused, “Ryan isn’t as fast as me, though.”

I didn’t tell him that Ryan was white and didn’t need to be as fast as him.

Instead, I said, “You’re Hispanic. If you’re running from a fight, police could think you were a part of it. If the police ever stop you, you stop. You don’t argue, you lay down, and when you can, you call your moms.”

I went on to tell him that there were at least 10 teens arrested at the Mall of America the day before. All were juveniles, ranging in age from 12 to 15.

Juan is 14.

He doesn’t have any fear of the police. He shouldn’t. I’m a volunteer Police Reserve Officer, Jody is currently going through orientation to be a Police Reserve, and he’s never been in trouble.

He’s known to the Richfield police because he’s helped me with police patrol, vehicle maintenance on police cars, and wrapping gifts with the police at holiday time for Heroes and Helpers.

After his eight grade school year, he’s planning on becoming a police explorer.

Juan has no thought of being concerned. He’s an A/B student and active in three sports. All of his interactions with police have been positive.

Still, when there’s a melee involving 200 juveniles, he’s just another Hispanic. I thought of him getting thrown to the ground, kneed in the back, his arm twisted behind him.

I repeated, “If you’re ever told to stop, you stop, you don’t argue, you lay down, and when you can, you call your moms.”

I left him with these words, “What the police see is a Hispanic running away.”

 

The Importance of Friends

Oliver and Antonio

Oliver and Antonio

Before Antonio’s soccer game, I told him that we wouldn’t be able to stay after the game. He groaned. Two days ago we stayed late giving him a chance to play with his friends on the field. They took turns shooting the soccer ball into the net with one of them guarding. I enjoyed watching his fun and he relished playing with his two friends.Every parent wants their child to have friends and I was delighted watching Antonio with his.

Today, after Antonio’s soccer game his friend Oliver asked if Antonio could stay and play. “My parents will bring him home,” he said. Antonio’s eyes shone when I said, “Yes”, and he quickly became so immersed in his soccer playing that he couldn’t hear Jody saying goodbye to him.

Nattie, Crystel, Ally

Nattie, Crystel, Ally

Antonio is interested in soccer this year because that is what his friends are doing during recess at school. I was shocked when both he and Crystel said they wanted to join the spring recreational league. For years, they had shown no interest.

His coach this year, remembered Antonio when he was four years old playing soccer at YMCA.

I sighed.

“Antonio was more interested in sitting on your lap then playing soccer,” I said to the coach.

The next time he played soccer he was six years old and he would come off the field during a play and say, “Crissy you go in for me.”

Crystel and Gabby

Crystel and Gabby

“Antonio she not only isn’t on your team,” I said. “She’s not even signed up for soccer.” Still, no one seemed to care when she bounded on the field taking his place.Children’s friendships are important to parents. Once in a while a parent will comment that they hope their children keep the same group of friends throughout all of their school years. “It’s a great group of kids,” they will say.

Jacob and Antonio

Jacob and Antonio

I must confess that I wasn’t prepared for the mother who wondered if Antonio would date her daughter-espeically since her daughter and Antonio were only in preschool. I’m sure she meant it as a compliment, but I hadn’t taken that leap in my mind yet.

Now that the kids are ten years old, I allow myself to wonder about that occasionally.

I am interested to see who they gravitate to in their friendships and in their ‘special’ relationships. They were both born in Guatemala and are being raised by two white women in an English speaking household. Are they drawn towards Hispanics or whites in their friendships? Who will they choose for a partner?

Tinsae and Antonio

Tinsae and Antonio

Both Antonio and Crystel are attending a Spanish dual language school. This helped them be comfortable around Hispanics. I used to have to remind them that they were brown and Hispanic which is why they needed to learn Spanish.

This past winter when the cold seemed like it would never end and they were whiny, I asked them if they would like to move to a warmer climate. They both immediately said, “No.” Their friendships have become that deep.

I have been happy to observe that they have friends who are of mixed races, white, Hispanic, and African American. They are friends with children from divorced families, families with only one parent, and children from families who have two parents.

In other words, they are perfectly normal.