Monday, December 05, 2005

Running the Emotional Gauntlet

In a testament to the complexity of human emotions, Saturday morning found me all aglow with cheerfulness and holiday spirit, and by Saturday night I was sitting on the couch, wiping away tears, surrounded by wadded-up tissues.

In the morning we all boarded the local commuter train for a Holiday Ride. Santa, a Victorian-themed barbershop quartet, a clown, and gospel singers made their way from car to car as we rode from the suburbs to the city. For Sean and Allie the big hit seemed to be the guide dog that accompanied one of the gospel singers. As for Santa, Allie dismissed him by saying "Don't like Santa. Don't want to ring his jingle bells." But her own rendition of the song "Jingle Bells" made everyone around us laugh: "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle BELLS!"

So that was a lot of fun. As was our dinner out that evening. I'm feeling marginally encouraged by the kids' restaurant behavior. They manage to avoid meltdowns in public by and large, and as long as we keep up a steady stream of activities and don't dawdle over the meal, we are usually assured a pleasant time.

(GRRR. Ask me how many times I've been interrupted by shrieking disputes while I've written a measly three paragraphs. Give up? TEN times. They are driving me crazy this morning.)

After the kids went to bed, I settled in to watch a movie while Jeff went out to do some Christmas shopping. Have you seen In America? It's about an Irish family who immigrate to the US in the early '80s. They're seeking a new life, both economic and emotional as they cope with the fallout from their young son's death from cancer.

This kind of plotline tugs at every single piece of my heart. Above all things, I fear losing my children. I feel like I live a pretty charmed life most of the time, and often I'm holding my breath as I wait my inevitable turn in the grief line. I'm always conscious that all I hold precious can be torn away at any moment. This isn't a profound observation, I realize. But Saturday night, watching the movie, I was just awash in vulnerability. After the movie ended, I sat in Sean's room, then Allie's, watching them sleep. It comforted me, seeing their chests rise and fall.

The irony of the juxtaposition of the above parenthetical statement and the rest of this post is not lost on me. I guess we can add "contradictory feelings" to the complexity of emotions.