From Bedtime-Story:
Stories Worth Talking About

For the children of the world
from six to ninety-six,
who lost their mothers

far, far too soon.

Collector of Tears and Mommy Make The Feather Dance!
Is a story within a story.

Mommy, Make The Feather Dance!

Cyncy’s mother sat in the front seat next to Grandad, the world’s best grandfather. Cyncy and her little brother Prentice sat in the back seat with their grandmother, who was carrying on an animated conversation about Mommy’s trip.

Cyncy’s mother was flying to New Orleans to visit her own grandmother. They were actually supposed to have taken Mommy to the airport sooner, but Mommy had changed her flight to a later one so she could finish sewing the lovely wool suit she wanted to wear on the airplane.

"Mommy, make the feather dance?" Cyncy had pleaded again. Her mother, with her cornflower blue eyes, and dark auburn hair, had laughed softly. Obligingly nodding her head, she made the partridge feather on her chic, wide-brimmed hat, dance lightly against the ceiling of the automobile for her little girl.

"Evelyn is as beautiful on the inside, as she is on the outside," said Mommy's friends.

They had stood on the observation deck of the airport, Cyncy and her brother and her grandparents, all of them waving goodbye. "Look!" Her grandmother had cried, "There she is! She’s waving her handkerchief in the window!" Cyncy had dutifully waved, even though she couldn’t quite figure out which window, or for that matter, which airplane they were supposed to be waving goodbye towards.

Cyncy knew how many days her mother was supposed to be gone because Mommy had told her. Mommy said that when she got back they would all go downtown shopping and then they would have lunch in Burdines Tea Room.

Cyncy and her brother would probably order a grilled cheese sandwich, and afterwards they would each be allowed to have one of the tearoom’s beautiful ice-cream desserts. Six year old Cyncy would order Cinderella. That was a scoop of pink ice-cream with the top half of a little wax figure of Cinderella sitting on top. The pink ice cream would become the skirt. It would be decorated with whipped cream ruffles and round silver sprinkles. It looked for all the world like a real Cinderella doll wearing a beautiful pink ballgown. Just like the Cinderella in the story Mommy read to her at bedtime.

Her 3 year old brother Prentice would order the clown. His dessert was a scoop of ice cream with gumdrop eyes and a licorice smile. A sugarcone hat, capped with a red gumdrop would be perched jauntily on top of the scoop. Thick waves of whipped cream, drenched in multi-color candy sprinkles would form the clown’s ruffled polkadot collar. Cyncy and her brother loved these outings.

There had been a lot of people coming to the house since late yesterday afternoon. They'd started arriving just a few hours after Mommy left on her trip. Some of them brought food, which Cyncy thought was a nice thing for them to have done. She caught only bits and pieces of their conversation, because whenever she came close everybody would get very quiet. She didn’t understand exactly what was going on, all these people filling the house. The snatches of conversation she heard were just words, never full sentences. She heard …storm…Gulf of Mexico… down…searching…debris…no survivors

The days were finally up. She had been counting. When Daddy came to tuck her in bed that night she smiled happily. "Mommy’s coming back home tomorrow isn’t she?" she had asked. Her father looked dazed for a moment and then, as if filled with more hurt than he could bear, he briefly closed his eyes. He drew a deep breath, as if to steady himself, and then he had said, as gently as he could, "No, Cyncy. Mommy’s not coming back ever again."

Cyncy was very quiet. Her father kissed her on top of her head and then turned to go. As he began to close her door she called after him "Daddy, leave it open just a little bit please. Just let me see the light." He nodded, and went back to sit with the people gathered in their living room.

Cyncy had an unusual dream that night. By morning, however, it was no more than a vague memory. There had been a pretty lady in the dream, she remembered that much, and something about tears, but she couldn’t quite remember.

During the first days, Cyncy had crawled into the back of her mother's closet, where she sat quietly for hours, holding the velvet hem of a claret colored gown to her cheek, inhaling the faint scent of Arpege that still lingered among her mother's things.

Her grandmother promptly supervised the removal of everything but feelings.

The people finally stopped coming, and after a while everybody stopped looking for her Mommy. Daddy’s friends told her that her Mommy was gone forever. Cyncy knew everybody was wrong though. They would see. It was going to be OK. Her Mommy had told her that she was coming back.

Once, afterwards, Tiny, the lady who had always come to help Mommy clean the house, had put Cyncy in for her bath. Kneeling next to the tub and washing Cyncy’s hair, she had suddenly begun to cry.

"Po’ lil’ muthaless ‘chile", she had murmered, "Po’ ‘lil muthaless 'chile...ain’t nobody never even found yo Mamma, baby."

Cyncy had felt strangely disquieted. I do too have a mother, she thought. She’s just not back yet.

When Mother’s Day came at school, each of the children were given a red rose to take home. The teacher gave Cyncy a red one but after a moment she came back and took it away from her, replacing it with a All the other children had looked at Cyncy strangely, and she was left with a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach that she didn’t like very much.

White roses would leave her feeling vaguely uncomfortable for the rest of her life.

The hardest part about Mommy being gone for such a long time was that there was nobody to hug Cyncy and her little brother. Daddy was always saying things like "I do NOT believe in a public display of affection" whenever she had tried to hug him, so she was beginning to feel pretty lonely.

Little Prentice was lonely too. For some reason Cyncy’s grandparents and her Daddy had become upset with each other, so they never came to visit anymore, and the housekeeper Daddy hired didn’t seem to like children very much at all.

When Easter rolled around, the housekeeper said she and her brother could color eggs all right, but they would have to use old coffee grounds to color them, because it was a waste of money to buy egg coloring. Cyncy and her brother remembered the rainbow of colored eggs Mommy had made with them the Easter before she went away.

This year they colored all the eggs brown.

One day Cyncy had walked past Prentices’ bedroom door and seen a tiny lump sitting quietly in the middle of his bed. He had pulled a sheet over his head to muffle any sound and his tiny shoulders shook with silent sobs. Cyncy had run to find her father, but by the time he came Prentice had come out from beneath the sheet and dried his eyes. Outside of an occasional hiccup, he never made a sound. Her father had looked stricken.

Cyncy never cried. There was no need. Mommy would be coming back. She was just taking a very long time to be found.

Once Daddy took them to see a movie about a family whose Mom was on an airplane that crashed in the ocean. In the movie they found the Mom safe and sound on a tropical island, and she came home and everybody lived happily ever after. Daddy had gotten out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes and told the two of them to stay right there, because he had to go get a drink of water.

They didn’t go to movies much after that.

Daddy eventually remarried, but their new stepmother, almost as soon as she married Daddy, promptly decided she didn't like either of the children, so little Prentice had to be sent away to school.

A big old wingback chair sat in Cyncy’s room. It had once belonged to her great grandmother. Cyncy found that if she sat sideways in the chair, nestled against the friendly cushions, a stuffed toy clasped in her arms, it almost felt like somebody was hugging her. And so every day, when she came home from school, she would quietly close the door, sit in the hugging chair and read a book. The books became her friends, the hugging chair became her family.

"She never cries," she heard her stepmother mutter to herself once, right after grabbing Cyncy by her hair and throwing her against a wall, during one of those terrifying explosions that Cyncy learned, only years later, had always been fueled by alcohol.

"She never cries."

Her Mommy never came back, of course.

After a while, Cyncy grew up and had children of her own. Before she knew it, she even had grandchildren. But wherever she went, wherever she moved, for the rest of her life, Cyncy always took the hugging chair with her.

One day, Cyncy looked in the mail and found that a friend, who lived a long ways away, had sent her a story to read. Cyncy loved stories, so she gathered her mail and sat down in the hugging chair to read this new tale.

Across the room, a television documentary solemnly recounted the tale of a storybook princess, whose two young sons had been awakened one shining August morning, with the news that their beautiful and vibrant mother was never coming home again. For probably the hundredth time since that special had run, Cyncy sighed and shook her head. She wondered if anyone who truly understood had been on hand to hug and comfort those boys, during the onset of that terrible hollow silence, which would now echo through their years.

Cyncy picked up the remote control and lowered the volume on the television. Flicking on the reading lamp next to her, she slipped the story from it's envelope.

The story turned out to be about a little girl, whose Mommy was never going to come home, ever again, and as she read, goosebumps began to rise on Cyncy’s arms.

The tale described a pretty lady who had come to the child in the middle of the night. The lady had called herself The Tear Collector.

Collector of Tears
By Jeff Meyers - Copyright © 1996

Muriel’s father reached for her hand.

Even as he led her, ever so lightly, she found it difficult to take her eyes from the large wooden box.

Mommy's box.

"C'mon Ree." Her father's voice was low and rough, sounding a lot like the time he had that awful cold. His arm circled her shoulders as he turned her gently towards the car. "It's time to go."

It was a short, quiet walk back to the long black limousine. Once in the back seat her father stared out the window, nibbling softly on the knuckle of his first finger while she stared into the shiny tips of her patent leather special occasion shoes. Since it was only the second time she had worn them, she could still see a clear reflection of herself staring back.

Tons of people were already at the house by the time they arrived. The kitchen was filled with food, casseroles and colorful gelatin dishes, with bits of fruit floating in them. Neighbors, friends, cousins, aunts and uncles, were everywhere, telling stories, laughing, and passing tissues amongst themselves.

Muriel didn't recognize most of the people, yet many of them took a moment to tell her that everything would be all right, that everything happens for a reason and that this was, somehow, for the best. Then they would stare into her eyes and wait, holding the moment as if there was something she was supposed to do.

"Thank you," she’d say, as a strange, uncomfortable warmth on her face forced her to look away.

That night, after everyone was gone, the house seemed bigger than usual. When her father carried her upstairs to bed, Muriel noticed a sort of empty quiet hanging in the air around them. He set her down gently and tucked her in better than he ever had before, making sure her blankets were pulled right up to her chin.

"Don't forget Mr. Scruffs," he said placing a well-loved stuffed rabbit beside her.


"Yeah, baby."

"Will Mommy be all right now?"

Her father stopped smoothing the covers. His face was tired. His mouth pulled into a tight smile to hide a subtle quiver. He brushed at the hair lying across her forehead.

"Mommy will be fine now." Scooping his arms beneath her, he pulled her into a warm, tight hug, sniffing as he held her.

"Now," he said after a while, "try to get some sleep."

Muriel lay back, feeling the dampness of her father's tears on her pillow. She watched him leave, taking the light with him as he pulled her door closed.



"Can you leave it open a bit, so I can see the hall light?"


Curling into a small ball around Mr. Scruffs, Muriel fell asleep as she stared into the line of light that traced her door. Soon after, a soft breeze brushed her cheek, drawing her away from a dreamless slumber. Pulling herself up onto one elbow, Muriel rubbed at her eyes to make clearer the figure that knelt before her. Not like a person, but not like a ghost, she saw the form of a woman in robes made of a soft white light.

"Who are you?" she asked through a sleepy whisper.

The woman smiled with a gentle softness. "I am the collector of tears."

With her tiny fingertip, Muriel traced the line under her eye. "I'm sorry," she said squinting as she looked at her hand, "I don't have any. See? It's dry."

"Then I shall wait," the woman said in a soothing whisper.

"For how long?"

"For as long as it takes."

"Daddy has some now, if you need them bad." Muriel said. "He even left some on my pillow." She ran her hand across the once wet spot, only to find it dry.

The woman's light grew bright with a smile of kind understanding. "Your father has given me all I need."

Muriel studied the woman's face. "I had tears when I thought I lost Mr. Scruffs that one time, and I had a lot of tears last week when I fell off my bike. Why didn't you come for those?"

"Because I have come for very special tears."

"Special tears?" Muriel asked. "What are they? What are you gonna do with them?"

"I take them to those you cry for."

Muriel pulled Mr. Scruffs closer as she thought about what the woman said. "I don't understand."

A hand of light reached out to brush the hair from the girl’s face.

"When people lose someone they love very much, they make extra special tears. I collect those tears, then I take them to those who the tears were made for. It is a gift of great comfort and happiness. It lets the ones who are gone know that they are loved and they are missed."

"But, I don't have any tears." Muriel said in a whimper. "What if I never have..."

"Hush, little one." the woman said. "Don’t fear such things. There are no rules for making tears. You must find them in your own time, and they will be as good today as they will be fifty years from today. No matter how long, I will wait."

The woman drew back her hand. "Sleep now."

Muriel offered an uncertain smile. Her eyes grew heavy again as she settled herself down with Mr. Scruffs tight in her arms. Standing over the young girl as she fell back into sleep, the woman of light, the collector of tears, faded away with the rising of the sun.

The morning came with the sounds of her father busily making breakfast in the kitchen. Muriel padded down the steps, led by the scent of fresh pancakes, still trying to recall the dream she had. She was sure there was a lady, but she couldn’t remember much else. As she neared the table, something caused her to stop. Two places instead of three. Her shoulders sank. Despite her growling stomach, she wasn’t hungry anymore.

The days that followed offered more of the same. Each morning Muriel woke up more tired than the day before. Her father had taken time off from work to cook them both large breakfasts that neither of them ate, and to take her to the park for long walks through the woods, which she usually loved, but everything was different.

The quiet emptiness she had noticed in the house before, now seemed to follow them everywhere. The thrill of being pushed on the swing so she could see above the bar, now made her sick. The snacks she used to eat while watching her afternoon cartoons were tasteless. Even Mr. Scruffs, who once felt like two armfuls, seemed small to her, no matter how hard she hugged him.

One night, near dinner time, Muriel went about her job of setting the table. She tried extra hard to get everything just right since her father would be going back to work after the weekend. She used real plates. She used the special napkins from the drawer next to the refrigerator. She made certain that all the forks, and spoons matched. Then, as she reached for the glasses, the ones that didn’t have any pictures on them, she stopped. Goosebumps traced her arms as she looked at her work.

Three places were set.

As she stared at the table, her eyes filled causing the scene before her to go blurry.

"Daddy?" she said with a hitch in her breath.

"What is it pumpkin?"

"I miss Mommy."

Her father dropped everything. He knelt down and pulled her into a hug that could never be tight enough. Each sob caused Muriel to shake. She wrapped her arms around her father’s neck, never wanting to let go, holding on until she fell asleep in his arms.

As she slept that night, a familiar breeze once again stirred her awake.

"I found my tears," Muriel said feeling her eyes well up again.

The woman of light looked down at her with kind and understanding face. "I know."

"Will you take them to Mommy now?"


"Will you tell her I miss her?"

"I will."

"And will you tell her I love her?"


"Very much." Muriel added.

"Very, very, much," the woman assured as she smiled brighter. "Look."

Muriel watched as the hands of light moved before her to produce a small crystal goblet. The little girl leaned over to peek inside. One shining tear dripped from her eye and fell into the tiny pool below, causing the water to ripple with life and light.

"That, little one," the woman said, "Is a most precious tear, for it is a tear of joy. This gift will make your mother very happy."

Muriel laid back down with Mr. Scruffs filling her arms. Her heart grew warm as she nuzzled her face deep into the rabbit's soft down. A peaceful sleep fell upon her. The woman stood with the goblet of tears and watched over the little girl until the morning claimed her light once more.

Muriel woke with a smile for the bright morning sun. The air around her was fresh and she breathed in deep as she lay in the warmth of her covers. She had that dream again. She couldn't remember any more of it than she did before, but this time she knew it had a happy ending. Somehow she knew her mother was happy, and wherever she was, like her father said, Muriel knew her mother would be all right now, forever.


Cyncy sat lost in thought for a very long time after she finished reading the story.

Then suddenly, she buried her face in her hands, and began to weep.

"Allright," she whispered softly to The Tear Collector.

"Take these to my Mommy.

Tell her I miss her."

One story is fiction. One story is not. May you find comfort in both.

Collector of Tears - by Jeff Meyers - Copyright 1996
Mommy Make The Feather Dance - by Cynthia Loomis Gurin - Copyright 1997
Dedicated to the memory of the passengers and crew of National Airlines Flight 470.


For other stories by these fine authors please see the Author/Illustrator Directory


Send eMail to Bedtime-Story

Bedtime-Story™ - Copyright Info
The Summerland Group, Inc. - All Rights Reserved.

Stories and Illustrations found on this site are exclusive to Bedtime-Story
Reproduction of any content without the express
written permission of Bedtime-Story is prohibited.