Last night I found myself sitting up with first one and then the other, well past midnight, listening to heartbreak pour out of my children. The set of the jaw, the flushed cheeks, the warble in the voice, the urgent desire to go to bed-now, told me that something had been too much, the emotions were welling and about to spill over. The cause? In this case it was well-loved characters in books and film facing horrible obstacles, crisis, death or the most horrible of all, moral downfall. Sometimes the characters we love, we love because they teach us about ourselves. We recognize something in them that we want for ourselves, or that makes us feel less alone in the world. I watch my children love and learn from and admire these characters, and when the worst happens, as so often it does, the tears, the questions begin. So I watch and wait and with a knock on the door, I'm invited in, asked to listen to their heartache. One tries to deny her feelings, fearing the intensity and questions the pain raises, I think, and the other is overcome all at once and his arms, even now at nearly twelve years, wrap around me and he wants me to rock him, even still.
I do all this willingly, of course, even as I wonder about the knapped portions of my own heart, as hot tears flow down my own chin. I know that as your mother, this is both an honor, as it always has been, and a trial to endure some of what you feel. As I kiss your musky sweet heads and grip your hands in mine, I only hope that my presence helps. I can't wish away your pain, and I don't think I would even if I could, not in this case.
Soon the tears dry, the rocking stops, and you pull away. Then the questions, the talking begins. We talk and talk, and without school or must-schedules to be mindful of, we talk late into the night. I fetch tissues, glasses of water, perhaps a homeopathic remedy, to ease you into your sleep. The cats join us, making us laugh with some antic and I know that, at least until the next beloved characters (fictional or real), break your hearts, I can, and will be there to offer the care and keeping.