I just re-watched Toy Story 3. This time, I didn't weep like a puss at the end. No, remembering what the ending of that movie is like, I wept right away.
My houseguests came the next day. "So, did your mom cry at the end of Toy Story 3?" I asked.
"Yes!" both kids sneered with teenage derision.
The boy continued. "I do not understand what about that movie makes adults cry."
I tried to explain. "It's about losing your childhood."
"My childhood sucks," snorted the girl. "Good riddance."
"I'm right here," said Mom, whom we ignored.
"Yeah, good point. My childhood sucked, too." I thought some more. How to explain to children who, by definition, have not yet felt this loss?
"Okay, the closest analogy I can come up with is death. As you get older and farther away from the child version of you, it's like he slowly dies. He just withers away. It's so gradual you don't even have a funeral, but one day he's gone and he's never coming back. Toy Story 3 taps into that. From your eyes, Andy's just going off to college. From an adult's eyes, Andy discovered a lump. We remember discovering ours, and we remember what came after that. The movie makes us feel things that we typically push out of our minds. So we cry because the movie is kinda making us grieve for a dead person."
The girl stared at me.
"Jeez, that's morbid," said the boy.
Mom hopped into the conversation. "I cried because Andy was giving away his toys."
"Seriously?" I said.
"Yeah. Dude, you're messed up!"
• • •
A bit later, I entertained the kids by putting on the trailer for the new Star Wars. "This damned thing taps into the same feelings. I guarantee you, my eyes will get all watery at the end."
I pressed play.
Cue the waterworks. The boy clapped as though I'd done some sort of double-jointed party trick.