Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Girl Who Doesn't Cry

I cry at fiction. A lot. Books, TV, movies--all the moments where authors and director and producers manipulate their audiences to tears totally work on me. I can't help myself.

So of course I have a kid who not only never cries over anything she reads or watches, but just recently yada-yada-yada-ed over the death of Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

She finished it last weekend, and as we saw she was near the end, we sneaked peaks at her to see if she had the same reaction many young readers (and possibly her not-young mother) do at the ending of that story.

When no tears formed, we asked how things were going for Mr. Potter.

"They were just at the Ministry of Magic and there was a huge battle."

"Oh, really? How did that go?"

"Dumbledore fought Voldemort, and it was really cool."

"Yeah? Anything else?"

"The prophecy broke and no one could hear what it said."


"We get to see that crazy lady. Bella...something or other."

"Bellatrix LeStrange? And what did she do?"

"She aimed a Crucio curse at Harry but it didn't hit him."

Oh, for pity's sake.

"Did anyone die?"

"Oh, yeah. Sirius died."

Sirius-ly, Ains?

"It was sad..."

I would worry about her being a sociopath, but I think she's probably just normal. She has a soft heart; I've seen it break. But her standard response to her overwrought mother reaching for tissues during The Wizard of Oz (she'll miss the Scarecrow the most of all!) is...

"It's just a story."

Real life affects her. But Dorothy and Snoopy and Charlotte and Wilbur and Fantine and Aslan--they are not real life. She knows that there isn't really a Sirius Black, and therefore he didn't just die and leave Harry more alone than he already is.

Pardon me. There's something in my eye.

It's not a bad thing that she's a stoic sort. In fact, it has served her well on at least one occasion when she was able to perform a beautiful piece of music at a very sad occasion and not cry while those around her openly wept. She will be that go-to person who can hold herself and everyone else together and not get overly emotional when bad things happen to the good people around her.

She's kind of like her father that way. And that's a really, really good thing.

Time will tell if there's ever a movie or work of literature that ends up being her emotional downfall. As a librarian, I know where these bodies are hidden. I look at it as a personal challenge--what work will go beyond "It's just a story" and take her to that mysterious place where the teardrops fall? Bridge to Terabithia? Where the Red Fern Grows? To Kill a Mockingbird? ("Hey, Boo.") Or maybe that new classic The Fault In Our Stars?

I will stand in amazement of her if she is always able to walk that fine line between being sympathetic and caring, and wearing her heart too far our on her sleeve. And if, by her early 20s, she has not yet had a good cry at a Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment, I'm just going to have to bring out the big guns and tape her eyelids open and force her to watch Lost straight through to the sob-fest end.

Because if Vincent doesn't get you, nothing will.

What was the first book that made you cry? Chime in below, if you are so inclined.


Robert K. said...

I think I cried tears of frustration the first time I read 1984. I was a little too young for that book, and kept waiting for the part where the resistance saved Winston and overthrew Big Brother, because books always have happy endings, right?

Library Lady said...

Yes! That first book that doesn't have a happy ending is a life-changer. I might have thrown Catcher In the Rye across Tammy Greenwald's car when I finished it. I had read unhappy ending before, but with books that happened in the Depression or war-time. It seemed to me Holden could have gotten his crap together. And since he didn't, what chance did I have?

DRoss said...

"Just a story"? The very idea! What makes us human if not the ability of stories to move us, to change our behavior and challenge us to understand the world and our place in it in new ways? How does the divine mediate in human affairs more powerfully than through a story well told? But before I get all Joseph Campbell on you, let me get to the comment you were expecting. Way back in the olden days, my elementary school teachers would spend around 30 minutes a day reading aloud to their captive audience during fruit break. Where the Red Fern Grows brought even the 4th grade playground toughs to open weeping. Oh, for our youthful days, when the associations of femininity and/or weakness connected with tearful expressions were less taboo. That said, the only place I have ever seen either of my parents cry were in church - where tears can be a sort of offering, or at the funeral home. What is that, the plucky Brit in us? Or just dysfunction?