Tuesday, October 25, 2022

“Tears and a Penny” by Jo Anne Wilson

Where do tears come from? I don’t mean biologically. I mean something more metaphysical. Their triggers are countless and varied –sadness, love, great beauty, laughter. They are mysterious.

Some tears come slowly and quietly, gathering somewhere just out of sight and, then, that hidden space cannot hold them anymore; they slip out. For a moment, they glisten on your eyelashes and, in a blink, they’re gone. A frisson of emotion.

Other tears come complete with loud claps of pain like thunder in a summer storm. The drops are torrential running down your face and dropping off your chin. These tears are the nasty ones – reddening your eyes, choking you, squeezing your lungs until each breath is a desperate gulp down an aching throat.

And then there are the tears that spring from your eyes in joy, incapable of being contained. They follow great gales of merriment and arrive just as the laughter becomes silent but rocks your body with waves of glee. You cross your legs and hold your stomach and are completely overcome by the moment.

Some tears are shared. Some are lonely. Some you regret. Others make you surrender. 

I can remember times when I thought that I would never stop crying and I'd die a desiccated wreck. Yet, no matter how painful the tears, they are followed by calm, a tired calm when every gram of emotion has been drained from your body, or a peaceful, refreshed calm like that quiet breezy air that often follows a spring shower.

They are powerful, precious droplets, our tears.

But who would have thought that the loss of a penny could make me sob for hours. A tiny, copper penny of no monetary value at all. But oh, the cost of losing it.

It was a 1968 Canadian penny and it was imbedded in the mortar on one corner of the stone fireplace Dad had built in our cottage on Skeleton Lake. We loved the cottage, but we all knew it would be even better with a fireplace.

We three kids and Mom had been in town for some reason – laundry or groceries. While we were gone, Dad had a load of Muskoka stone delivered and had cut a hole in the living room floor. He had made a commitment. No matter the chastising words from my mother, it was happening. We were getting a fireplace. A beautiful, handcrafted fireplace made from stones chiseled by my father and fitted together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. We were also getting lessons in how delicate rock could be when you try to sculpt it and lessons in swearing when Dad inadvertently ruined a stone.

The Fireplace Jo Anne's dad built

But more than that we got a source of warmth and comfort for 44 years. And so many memories: being wakened by the smell of crackling birch logs, the indescribably divine feeling of sitting in front of the fire naked under a towel after a swim in the evening lake, seeing our dog curl up as close as she could get without singeing her tail.

Then it was gone, that fireplace. We sold the cottage and the new owners tore out all the work Dad had so lovingly done. Gone too was Dad, and my brother and my brother‐in‐law and the dog and, recently, Mom.

Gone too was that penny. How I wish I had taken it before we left. Taken my father’s chisel and delivered the first blow of destruction, freed the penny to be put in a place of honour rather than in a dumpster of debris.

At the memory, the tears come again.

Jo Anne Wilson is a retired marketing executive and college professor who now devotes her time to family, friends, volunteering, travel and writing. Recently she decided to take the writing bug she’s had since her childhood and see what might happen when she devotes time and energy to it.

One of her fondest writing memories is of finishing a grade eight exam early and using the remaining time to write a story. The school principal “caught” her, was impressed with the story and read it to the entire school.

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.