Sunday, December 27, 2009

I cried

myself to sleep last night in a way I haven't cried in a long time. My breath faltered, face warmed and tightened, and my chest hurt, as if some part was truly cracking.

As a family, we had watched an American Girl TV movie: Samantha, An American Girl Holiday. It was a typical heart-wrenching "American Classic" set in 1904: orphans, child neglect/exploitation, a dead cat, the need for a home and a sense of belonging, good triumphing over evil, and the inevitable happy-ever-after. Sentimental and unrealistic, yes, but also strangely affecting.

After the movie, my seven-year-old daughter was inconsolable. Mostly, it seems because of the reference to the beloved dead cat. Our long-haired orange tabby, Jameson, is only a year-and-a-half, but ever since we adopted him at age three months, my daughter has in equal parts obsessed over how much she loves him and how much she will not be able to bear it when he dies.

Next, my ten-year-old joined-in the tear-fall, lamenting again over how we have no family here in the U.S., no grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins. She pleaded, as she does on a regular basis, for us to move to Ireland where we could have family all around us (she thinks living there would be just as much fun (for her and her sister) as vacationing there. NOT). That's never going to happen, I tell her for the countless time. Why????? I remind them both, quoting verbatim from the movie, to focus not on what we don't have, but on what we do have.

I climbed into bed between both girls, and wrapped my arms around them. I told them how, as a girl, I would cuddle between both my sisters and we would sing ourselves to sleep. And that's just what we did. We cuddled and sang Christmas carols, and after the sixth song my daughters fell deep asleep. Still I held onto them, listened to them breathe easy. I was getting to do it all again, I realized with a start, getting to be the glue, the safe base, in the middle. Only this time in charmed circumstances. I felt a gratitude that rocked me.

Gratitude and heart-hurt too. I so want to do it better second time round. So wish it could have been different first time round.


  1. The look of this blog has changed! I like the white. And my heart goes out to you and your girls. (You might write a non-fiction from this experience? What a moment. Thanks for sharing.)

  2. I know what you mean. You're doing well, Ethel...

  3. Oh, Ethel. I wasn't able to do well the first time, either, and for me, the realization this year was that there is no safety but what you make on your own.

    Here's to being the glue.
    Here's to second chances.

  4. Molly, Eric, and Tanita, thanks for the kind words. I wish there was something "bigger" than thank you. THANK YOU.

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