Thursday, March 4, 2010

Many a Tear (Recycle #2)

When RL gets a bit more manageable than it is right now, I promise completely new blogs again. In the meantime, I hope you like this oldie from my early Vagabond days.

Women do it 64 times a year, men just 17. I do it at least 122 times a year.

With dismaying frequency I release lachrymal fluid, a watery physiologic saline, with a plasma like consistency, from my light-detecting organs. I confess. My name is Janga, and I am a weeper.

Strangely, I don’t cry during real crises. Then I move like an automaton and feel as if the real me is on another plane watching some image of myself responding to the right cues. I am an empathetic weeper, crying in response to the trials and tragedies that affect characters real and imaginary. Especially imaginary.

Sad movies do always make me cry. ET, It's a Wonderful Life, Ghost, Bambi, My Girl, Beaches, Terms Of Endearment, Sophie's Choice—they all evoke tears. I have seen Steel Magnolias eight times, and I wept more the eighth time than the first. Sally Fields in that funeral scene breaks my heart every time. And Big Fish! Every time I watch Will carry Edward into the river I sob.

I cry when I listen to certain music. Chopin nearly always makes me teary (although I know my admitting it embarrasses some of my musician friends). So does “Amazing Grace” and Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” and Paul Simon’s “I Am a Rock,” and Trisha Yearwood’s “On a Bus to St. Cloud.”

And you chase me like a shadow.
And you haunt me like a ghost.
And I hate you some, and I love you some,
But I miss you most.

Sniff, sniff. Those lines just get to me.

But my most heartfelt tears are reserved for books. One of my early reading memories is of sitting in a circle in a second-grade classroom while my teacher read Peter Pan aloud and of the tears that started flowing when it seemed as if Tinkerbelle were dying. I can still remember how hard we all clapped to show we believed, hoping our belief would keep Tink alive. Then there’s Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. I was an adult when I read the book, but I sobbed as much as any kid when Jesse learned of Leslie’s death and again at the end when he leads May Belle across the bridge and makes her the new Queen of Terabithia. Then there’s L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside. Just thinking of faithful dog Monday is enough to bring on the tears. And Walter’s death requires a box of Kleenex. I need a separate box when Rilla reads her brother’s last letter.

Rilla carried it unopened to Rainbow Valley and read it there, in the spot where she had had her last talk with him. It is a strange thing to read a letter after the writer is dead–a bitter-sweet thing, in which pain and comfort are strangely mingled. For the first time since the blow had fallen Rilla felt –a different thing from tremulous hope and faith–that Walter, of the glorious gift and the splendid ideals, still lived, with just the same gift and just the same ideals. That could not be destroyed–these could suffer no eclipse. The personality that had expressed itself in that last letter, written on the eve of Courcelette, could not be snuffed out by a German bullet. It must carry on, though the earthly link with things of earth were broken.

Part of my love for romance fiction is predicated on its emotional appeal. My favorite romances make me sigh, laugh, or cry. The ones at the top of my list of favorites, books like Eloisa James’s Pleasure for Pleasure, Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked, Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, Anne Gracie’s Gallant Waif, Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s Till the Stars Fall, make me do all three. Here are some of the books I turn to when I need a good cry:

One Good Turn (2001) by Carla Kelly

Benedict Nesbitt, Duke of Knaresborough, is a recovering alcoholic, a psychologically scarred veteran of Badajoz, and a rejected suitor. Liria Valencia is a survivor who has endured brutality and loss that is barely imaginable. While I love Nez, it is Liria whose determination to move forward even if she cannot leave the past behind and her son Juan, a child old and wise beyond his years, whose every breath affirms that something good can come from horrifying evil, who move me to tears—tears of sadness and tears of joy over an ending that shows love as redemptive.

One Perfect Rose (1997) by Mary Jo Putney

The final book in Mary Jo Putney's Fallen Angels series, this book is the story of Stephen Kenyon, brother to Michael, hero of Shattered Rainbows. Stephen has been given only a few months to live, and he determines to escape the confining responsibilities of his dukedom and spend whatever time he has discovering who he is and what life is. He discovers joy in small things and he discovers that he is capable of experiencing and inspiring passion and love. Even knowing that MJP will provide the requisite HEA does not stem my tears over Stephen’s reaction to his death sentence, over the poignancy of his finding love with his Rosalind as he is dying, over his desire to make peace with his sister and brother. Then there is the near-death experience that requires multiple hankies on its own.

Paradise (1992) by Judith McNaught

I am not a big fan of McNaught’s historicals, but two of her contemporaries, Perfect and Paradise, are cherished keepers, and just thinking about Paradise makes me reach for a tissue to catch the tears. I cry over Meredith’s lonely childhood, I cry over her separation from Matt, I cry over her miscarriage, I cry over her father’s lies, and I cry over the immensely satisfying HEA. I pretty much cry through this whole book, all 700 pages. Then I cry because I know publishers will probably never again give me a 700 page romance to cry over.

No Place Like Home (2003) by Barbara Samuel

There are some wonderfully humorous moments in this book that I classify as a hybrid of romance and women’s fiction, but reading it is nevertheless a weep fest. Jewel Sabatino has been estranged from her father for more than two decades: they "had not exchanged a single word in twenty-three years." Her best friend Michael is dying of AIDS, and her son is 17, on the cusp of adulthood. Any one of these facts is enough to inspire tears, but Jewel has courage, determination, and a sense of humor, and she meets a "big, alligator-blood-drinking tough guy," so her story is also life-affirming. The book reminds me that letting go is painful but also necessary for growth. The reminder also makes me cry. So does the beauty of Samuel’s prose:

The more he kissed me, the more peaceful I felt. Everything about my life that worried me or hurt me or scared me just slid away as I touched him. Peace came into my shoulders, spread through my chest. He felt like the smell of supper and the sound of Mass, like walking into my own bedroom and closing the door.

Christmas Past and Presents (Harlequin Everlasting Love #21, 2007) by Janice Kay Johnson

Perhaps because the years Johnson covers—from the turmoil of the Vietnam era to the present—are pieces of my own life, my emotional connection to this book was especially strong. I wept over Will and Dinah as young lovers who struggle to bridge differences in experience and world view, I wept at their reunion, I wept at the tragedy that seems to me the greatest heartbreak, and I wept buckets when their marriage fell apart—and when they gave one another the gift of trying again.

Researchers tell us that 85 percent of women and 73 percent of men say that they feel better after crying. This change, scientists suggest, shows that tears may help remove chemicals that build up after stress. If these experts think crying will make me feel better emotionally and purge some of the harmful effects of stress, I am going to keep indulging myself in the stories in print, on film, and in sound that make me cry.

Tell me, my friends, what makes you cry? What movies, songs, and books cause you to produce that lachrymal fluid? And do you share my love for any of the tearjerkers I named?


Hannah said...

Wow, I feel like I cry a lot less than usual. Unless even shedding a few tears counts as crying.
While I've been moved by a lot of books, I don't usually cry while reading. And I think the only movie I've ever cried at (as in real running down my face tears) was Malcolm X with Denzel Washington.

Janga said...

Hannah, for me tear-inspiring works range from those that evoke merly a lump in the throat and a teary eyes to those that leave me sobbing. I also admit to having very active tear ducts. I get teary at graduations and weddings too. :)

MsHellion said...

Budweiser Clydesdale commercials.

And a lot of other things that are too numerous to list here. I don't like crying though, so I'll tighten jaw through it and just make it worse.

I saw an article last night that say the average woman cries 47 times a year, but the average man only cries 7. Really?

Though I imagine if I had one of the guys in my life answer this question, they'd say it was 6 times for the times they were accidentally racked in the groin; and the other time is when they cried because they shot the most spectacular deer ever. 13 point spread!

Hannah said...

Thanks Janga--lovely article by the way!
MsHellion, speaking of what makes guys cry, remember that scene in Sleepless in Seattle that illustrates the differences in the movies that make men cry vs those that make women cry? Hilarious!

Beth said...

I hate to admit it, but The Bridges of Madison County got me. The self-sacrifice, the longing, the lonliness, and the bittersweet memories were a lethal combination. I am not overly sentimental so my reaction really surprised me. More recently I had a smililar reaction to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

irisheyes said...

What makes me cry? Just about anything. I'm a weeper.

Songs. Yes... not specifically ones with sad lyrics, either. Sometimes it can be a happy song but reminds me of a time when I was sad like King Harvest's Dancing in the Moonlight. Although, I was listening to Blowin' in the Wind by Peter, Paul and Mary the other day and that was a real cry fest.

Movies. Yes. Although not as much anymore because the older I get the less I seek out the depressing movies I watched when I was younger. I'd prefer happy tears at movies now. I cried when I watched Brian's Song, The Thornbirds, The Way We Were, Steel Magnolias, Terms Of Endearment, E.T., Titanic, The Notebook... I'm sure there are more I can't think of right now.

And of course I've been known to cry when I read a really good book too. MJP's One Perfect Rose is a good one. I remember shedding tears during that reading. I cried during Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas, Kiss An Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas, and countless others. The great thing about crying during a romance novel is that you know that your tears of sadness will turn into tears of joy. I always get my HEA.

Janga said...

Hellion, I cry at commercials too, but less I think than I used too. The Kodak moments always made me teary. There used to be one that used "Green, Green Grass of Home" that was a double whammy. And the Hallmark cards! Coffee commercials are the only sentimental ones I see these days.

Janga said...

Beth, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society made me teary too. I think my predisposition to sentimental tears dates back to childhood. I reread Alcott's books over and over again, and I cried every time a character died--and a character died in every book, I think.

Janga said...

Sometimes it can be a happy song but reminds me of a time when I was sad . . .

Irish, I know just what you mean. There's an old, old Johnny Tillotson song "Dreamy Eyes" on my iPod that's all schmaltz, not sad at all, but I get teary-eyed every time I listen to it because it strikes powerfully what Faulkner called "the resonant strings of remembering."

Jane said...

I still cry each time I watch "Beaches." Books that have made me cry include Linda Howard's "Cry No More" and Pamela Clare's "Extreme Exposure." I avoided reading "Cry No More" for a long time because I had heard it was a tearjerker, but I'm glad I did eventually read it.