The holiday season is when I watch a lot of highly sentimental stuff. I’m a sucker for movies that are meant to evoke a strong, emotional response. It runs in my family.
I was always amazed at my mom and her sisters. We all lived far apart, but whenever we would visit, which seemed fairly often, they would get a little snippy with each other. Yet, when it was time to go home, they all started crying. Actually, I was impressed.
It wasn’t really spoken of, but things had not always been wonderful between them all, especially my Aunt Jaquita, my grandmother, and my mom. There had been a falling out in the past but I only learned much later in life that it revolved around me. Still, when they forgave, it was an all-out forgiveness and that is an inspiration to me to this day. I think it is important for families to quickly forgive each other.
At these teary moments of parting, I would get teary too, though as a young boy I was quick to hide it. It wasn’t just the natural reluctance that almost all boys have to being seen crying. My stepfather used to say to me, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”
The abuser in my family warped that into, “I’m going to hit you until you stop crying.” I learned very quickly to put the brakes on my tears.
In my adulthood, I’ve only grown more prone to crying at emotional stuff. A talk in church, a television commercial or show, a movie, all can make me cry. It’s a little embarrassing, but I’m glad I’m that way.
As I do with so many things, I like to understand why I am the way I am and I’ve thought about this propensity for sappiness at movies. Why do some emotional movies trigger a dam burst and others just a sniffle or two? It seems so strange to me, as I wipe my eyes. I’ll think, “That was really hokey, but why am I crying?”
I recently watched One Magic Christmas, a holiday favorite of mine. It’s Santa and his angel minion, Gideon (Harry Dean Stanton), to the rescue. They do an attitude adjustment on Ginny (Mary Steenburgen) through a series of tragedies and resolutions. At the end, I cry.
What puzzles me about it is that I don’t literally believe in Santa Claus in a direct sort of way. I believe in the possibility of a man translated into an immortal of sorts who lives on earth and does good. I believe that might include helping children have things at Christmas. I also believe in angels and their ministrations to us.
Yet, the story of the transformation of Ginny is far from plausible and highly sentimental, though very well-acted. It seemed funny to me that I would get sappy over it, until it came to me what kinds of things make me tear up.
I get the same way over all of the many versions of A Christmas Carol. What gets to my tear ducts and sinuses is transformation. That’s something I really believe in. When my mother would part tearfully from my grandmother and aunt after some disagreements, when Ebenezer Scrooge shows up to offer to pay for Tiny Tim to get better, when Ginny finally says “Merry Christmas” again, and when someone changes for the better, I find that deeply moving.
I believe it is because of my own transformation from a teenager on the road to death and hell to the confidence of one determined to dedicate his life to the Savior that reached into his heart and changed him. I relate very well to all stories of transformation from someone in the depths of pain to someone in the light of hope. It reaches me. It makes me cry.
My heart strings are tuned to the beauty of transformation, no matter how small or even seemingly trivial. I see it and I want to burst into tears of joy that to me represent the joy I remember at my own transformation.
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