I can count on one hand the books that have made me cry real tears. There was Little Women, which left my sister and I nearly hysterical in the bedroom we shared in the basement of our parents house. We knew Beth was going to die, of course, but reading about it on our own for the first time was almost more than we could take. What if it had been you? We seemed to be saying to each other through our tears.
And then there was the end of Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I read that book every year of my adolescence (along with To Kill a Mockingbird), but the first year was the only one that brought me to tears. I must admit I was taken by surprise by the ending. I thought that Sal would indeed be able to bring her mother back . . . but it was impossible in a way that I never anticipated. And that, on top of all the other incidents and situations in her roiling teenage world, put my own teenaged angst and drama in perspective.
Which brings us to last Saturday. Sitting on the couch, reading The House at Pooh Corner to the boys. I was thrilled to be the parent sitting there, finishing the final chapters with them, since Micah was the one sitting between them through most of the other stories. But as the stack of pages to the end grew smaller and smaller, and as Pooh and Piglet and Rabbit and Eyeore and Kanga and Roo and Owl and all of Rabbit’s friends and relations gathered to give Christopher Robin the poem they had written him, and as the unspeakable fact of “things changing” became both more apparent and more unspeakable, I could feel my emotional stability becoming as shaky as the animals’ future with Christopher Robin.
So when I finally did turn that final page to read that last paragraph, I completely lost whatever emotional footing I had. I slipped first to one side — the side of tears — and then teetered to the other — where laughter awaited me. I reeled back and forth between the two sides, never quite falling completely one way or completely the other, for several minutes while my family looked on, amused and curious as to how long it would take me to regain my footing. Which I did. Eventually. And I finished the book. And closed it.
It is hard to imagine a more perfect storm for each of these emotional upheavals: reading Little Women with my sister, whom I called Meg when she called me Jo; or lying on my bed, alone and lonely as I discovered just how alone Sal had been as well; or sitting between my two boys, one of whom I am supposed to send to kindergarten next fall. But along with the upheaval came the relief: It wasn’t my sister who died, nor my family that was broken.
And it isn’t my sons who no longer have the time to play in that enchanted Forest — at least not yet. That will come, eventually, I know, but it will not be the final page in the book. And so instead of dreading the end of that particular chapter of their lives, I am looking forward to the pages that have not yet been written, to finding out what adventures Christopher Robin had when his toys could no longer come along.