Thursday, July 19, 2007

Victor Hugo brought me bittersweet tears

Victor Hugo brought me bittersweet tears today. He must have had daughters. Only a man with daughters can know what Jean Valjean felt. These little girls are given to us and we have no idea what is in their hearts or their heads; we have never seen the world through a girl’s eyes. In the beginning we foolishly believe that half of them is us and we think that will be the key to unlocking the bright secrets within. But eventually we will resign ourselves to our ignorance and simply behold their wonder dumbfounded, mouths agape. All of us are Valjean and all our little girls are Cosette. All we know is what we feel: to protect them and to spend all our fortunes, strength and energy trying to keep them safe and make them smile. And the smiles come our way, and the hugs and kisses and held hands and touched faces, each one the annunciation of an angel. We dare not breathe too hard or hold too close; they are such fragile things and scare so easily. Like a man who awakes to find a fairy sitting on his hand he holds his breath for hours and dares not move for fear of crushing her, frightening her or otherwise causing the disappearance of the wondrous creature, leaving him with little but a glimmering memory. We gaze into those impenetrable eyes and try to gauge those unknowable hearts, but we know our quest will be fruitless. We know we will someday run out of fortune, strength and energy and the little girls will need someone younger and stronger to protect them and keep their smiles alive, who will be equally mystified and we expect to smile on his confusion as if we had more wisdom. So we will reluctantly relinquish our mission to these other men they will call husbands and our work will be done and we will sigh a great tired sigh and wish them back all the while. For, even in releasing our careful grasp, we will not have really known them, but will be the heaven-touched witnesses of their miracles nonetheless. In our minds will be no golden glow of understanding, but from each place they touched us will spread the glow of Midas’ touch until our every particle radiates. We will not have known them, but our fortunes, strength and energy will have been enough. The part of us that was once those things will become these girls; half of us will be them.

Written 18 October 2004