On Becoming Openly Sentimental

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Throughout my life I’ve known people who were so sentimental that they were reduced to tears at the mention of a memory, a person, or even a song. My mother was one of the most likely to weep at the drop of a hat. I had a friend who once ran from our table in a restaurant when the strains of ‘White Christmas” wafted through the air. She later explained that the tune had been a favorite of her mother. I tended to feel a bit embarrassed by such outbursts of emotion, but while I did not understand them I always consoled the people who so easily cried. 

I suppose that I have generally been stoic. Even when my father died I held my eight year old self together. I was always the rock who saved my tears for the private times behind closed doors. I had a good cry and then moved on with whatever work was a hand. I suppose that to some I appeared to be a bit heartless. I showed no signs of sobbing even at funerals. The only time I did so was when I got ambushed by an unexpected occurrence at my grandfather’s funeral. Somebody played the song “Grandpa” which so perfectly described my relationship with him that I totally lost it in a swell of heaving and contorting of my face. Otherwise I have generally been in total command of myself, a trait which has led some to question my feelings and even accuse me of being a bit cold. 

I am rather certain that I learned how to keep my sentiments to myself when my father died. Somehow I believed that it was up to me to take care of my little brothers and even my mother. Since she was prostate in her bed with almost continuous wailing, I thought that I needed to be the counterbalance to her outbursts. I now know that my assessment of the situation was not to my benefit, but somehow it worked for me so well that staying calm and cool in public became a kind of trademark of how I respond to sorrow. 

In the last few years, as I have grown older I find that my ability to maintain a semblance of composure is waning. I only need to see a photo of an old pet to get misty eyed. If I watch a video of my grandson reading a poem that he wrote, I totally lose my composure. Like my friend, songs trigger memories of people and events resulting in bringing on the waterworks. I’ve become so sappy and sentimental that I sometimes wonder what has created the big change, Mostly though I like the way it feels to allow myself to respond to the moment in exactly the way my mind is telling me to be. 

Christmas is especially moving to me, as I suppose it is to everyone. I can think back to a time when I still believed in Santa Claus and life seemed to be filled only with joy. I had so many people who loved me as I loved them. I had not yet felt the sting of loss that has repeated itself many times over since then. I once had grandparents and dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins who were regular stars in my constellation. It was an innocent time when everyone shielded me from the ugliness that sometimes enters our world. I can still envision the joy that surrounded me and when I do, the tears of happiness fill my eyes.

It’s been a long and lovely journey from that time to the present. There have been bumpy moments when I felt my strength being tested, but with resolve I made it through even the darkest challenges. I find myself lately looking back on the souls who helped me reach this point in life. Many of them are no longer here and I seem to miss them more and more rather than becoming accustomed to their absence. In a strange way just remembering the happiness we shared is comforting, but it almost always makes me cry. 

Perhaps it is because I have more time and fewer responsibilities that I am learning how healing it is to be genuine with my thoughts and feelings. My tears are not the product of sadness but rather a reaction to the loveliest of memories. Somehow I no longer feel embarrassed by my sudden shows of emotions like I once was. I’m not careful to be staunch anymore and it is a freeing experience that I almost wish I had tried a bit earlier in my life.

So this Christmas I have visions of Christmases past, present and future. It is with gratitude that I remember all of the wonderful folks who have so blessed my life. It is laughter and goodness that has been the legacy that they have given me, so perhaps it may seem silly that thinking of them makes me cry. I miss them but thoughts of them also make me smile. I suppose that a confusion of feelings creates a storm of tears that leak across my face. Somehow it is a very good thing, so I don’t feel foolish being openly sentimental like I once might have been.

I would guess that most of the people of the world are experiencing a flood of conflicting emotions during this holiday season. No doubt everyone is thinking back on times that were more certain and pleasant. They are remembering loved ones who have long been gone or who may have only left this earth in the past year. They may find their emotions overtaking them. I would advise them to let their feelings flow freely. There is nothing to hide. It is a very human thing to laugh and cry. Have that moment and then go forth and enjoy this life.