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Monday, February 13, 2012

I'm not crying, it's just raining on my face.

I volunteer at the Poetry Center once a week (and now teach there! for a little while!); among the numerous lovely things about this is that I can read from their complete collection of literary journals. I took a stack of Fairy Tale Reviews to my desk today and was happily reading. 

In the grand female tradition, I get strangely weepy at certain times of the month; usually a feeling of great sadness descends upon me at some embarrassing moment, and I get weepy over a tourism commercial for California or sob inappropriately at some song on the radio that's really not worth tears, like Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away." (NOTE: I have never actually wept over Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away"; this is just an example). 

Anyway, today the strange wave of emotional weepiness that overtook me today was from a non-embarrassing source: a piece by Donna Tartt in "The Blue Issue". It involves a grandmother, and as Cher Horowitz says, "Old people can be so sweet!": 

But a few books we loved especially, and read doggedly again and again, almost as if they were religious texts, and chief among these was Peter Pan. Did I love it so because of the mysterious Scottishness that colored her voice as she read?...Because we ourselves--so passionately close--had crossed paths in time so very strangely: she like Wendy at the end of the book, bent in the back and with white in her hair, and me still a child? (In my edition of Peter Pan, there is a line drawing of Peter stranding in the firelit nursery regarding Wendy, who is no longer a child like himself, but an old lady: it might almost be great-grandmother and me, drawn from the life). I suppose in the end Peter Pan was such an important book to us both because it is ultimately such a dark book, about change, loss, again, mortality, death: the very questions that hung so heavy between us. She was in her eighties: our days together short, and we knew it, which was why our every goodbye on the corner of Levee Street held within it the vertiginous terror of permanent separation. And when she did actually die I refused--fierce sunburnt little pagan that I was--to direct any prayers Heavenward on her behalf: instead, at her funeral, I silently beseeched Peter, small fitful god of our household religion, to go with her part of the way so that she would not be frightened.

At that last line, I became this:


Old people + emotional power of literature + death + childhood + Peter Pan = I just need to go home and eat some Red Vines now.

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