Although I speak in tongues
Of men and angels
I’m just sounding brass
And tinkling cymbals without love–
Love suffers long–
Love is kind!–
Enduring all things–
Love has no evil in mind
If I had the gift of prophecy–
And all the knowledge–
And the faith to move the mountains
Even if I understood all of the mysteries–
If I didn’t have love
I’d be nothing
Love–never looks for love–
Love’s not puffed up–
Because it rejoices in the truth
Not in iniquity
Love sees like a child sees
As a child I spoke as a child–
I thought and I understood as a child–
But when I became a woman–
I put away childish things
And began to see through a glass darkly
Where, as a child, I saw it face to face
Now, I only know it in part
Fractions in me
Of faith and hope and love
And of these great three
Love’s the greatest beauty
Joni Mitchell, “Love (Corinthians II:13)”
Monday Afternoon: Love Speaks as a Child
Three days before Valentine’s Day, on a cold and dreary day when both June and I were tired and out of sorts and a little under the weather, she flung her arms around my neck and said, “Mommy good” about a half dozen times. It was the bright spot in an endless, exhausting day.
That evening I was telling Beth about it. Noah overheard and corrected, “She should have said, ‘Mommy great!’”
Monday Evening: Love Endures All Things
Noah picked a photo album up off the living room floor and started to open it. June saw it in his hands and grabbed it away from him. He made no move to reclaim it. We made no move to correct her. Often we do, but we just didn’t have the energy and he didn’t seem upset.
“That was nice of you, Noah, to let her have it,” Beth said. “It’s not easy to have a almost two-year-old little sister sometimes, is it? She’s not very polite.”
“No,” Noah said, but he was smiling.
Tuesday Morning: Love’s Not Puffed Up
“They want me to go out to dinner, but I don’t think I have to,” Beth said, two days before Valentine’s Day, when I inquired when she’d be home from the third day of her conference in Baltimore. She’d been attending it during the day, leaving earlier than usual in the mornings, and returning home at night, later than usual, sometimes after everyone was in bed.
“You’d rather eat chili out of a can with me?” I said.
She smiled. “Instead of eating in a nice Italian restaurant in Baltimore? That’s how much I love you, Baby,” she joked. Now in our childless days, she would have gone, but she wanted to see the kids before they went to bed, and she knew after a twelve-hour plus day alone with them (Noah was off school for Election Day) that I would need a break. So she was opting out.
“Well, maybe I’ll make the roasted vegetables then,” I said.
Later Tuesday Morning: Love is Kind
I was at the dining room table eating breakfast when I heard Noah scream. He’d hurt his finger with a staple. My first reaction was annoyance. “I told you to stay away from the stapler,” I said, as he approached. (Actually, what I told him was “Don’t chew on the stapler.” You find yourself uttering the oddest things after giving birth.) But then I saw the staple was still in his finger and he was panicking. I stopped myself mid-scold and took his hand in one of mine, quickly plucking the staple from his finger with the other hand. Blood welled around the small wound. There was blood on the next finger as well.
We went to the bathroom to wash it off. I started to run the water in the sink and he said, “No! It will hurt less if you get a paper towel wet.” I dampened some toilet paper, which would be softer, and gently dabbed both fingers. When the blood was washed away, I could see the small cut on his pointer finger. I checked the middle finger. No mark. The wounded finger must have dripped on it. He didn’t want any disinfectant and I decided it was a minor enough cut not to need it.
“Do you want a band-aid?” I asked. He did. I got out the Blue’s Clues band-aids and started to wrap up the hurt finger.
“No, Mommy, it’s the other one,” he protested. It wasn’t, but I bandaged that finger anyway.
Still Later Tuesday Morning: Love Sees it Face to Face
As we were getting ready to leave the house to go vote later that morning, I found Noah and June in a spontaneous embrace. “Hug!” June announced.
“Take a picture, Mommy!” Noah suggested.
I went for the camera, thinking it likely June would have wriggled out of his arms before I got back. But when I returned, they were still at it.
They have trouble sometimes, not being envious, or touchy with each other, but often, they do see face to face and I love glimpsing those moments.
Tuesday Afternoon: Love Suffers Long
Noah was at the computer making Valentines for his classmates. Over the weekend, he had started this project, lost all his work somehow and became too upset to continue. Today we were starting over. I was sitting on the study floor reading a book to June, staying close by Noah so I could trouble-shoot if need be. June walked away and returned with Duckie’s Splash (http://www.amazon.com/Duckies-Splash-Frances-Barry/dp/0763628972).
We’ve had this book out of the library for four weeks. I have read it so many times June has it memorized. When I read it, she recites the words along with me. Sometimes I think I can’t possibly read it again without going crazy. “Hear again Duckie Splash?” she asked.
And I read it six times.
Wednesday Morning: Love Rejoices in the Truth
June woke to nurse at 5:50 a.m. on the day before Valentine’s Day. I was hoping to get back to sleep after she did, but I couldn’t. I lay awake listening to the sounds of freezing rain on the windows and cars driving on the wet roads outside.
An ice storm the day before had slicked the roads. It took Beth about twice as long as usual to get home from Baltimore; she saw some scary-looking accidents on the way and got home just in time to help put the kids to bed. Now I was hoping for safe driving conditions for her fourth and final trek to Baltimore. Meanwhile, I tried to plan three different days in my mind. Would school open on schedule, late or not at all? How could I best spend each potential day? I’d planned some Valentine’s-related errands for the morning. It would be easiest to run them without Noah, since I was intending to buy his present. Still, he’d been quite pleasant and well behaved the day before. Another day with him home could be cozy affair. Maybe we could make cookies with the dried cherries we’d bought at the co-op the day before. I would just have to figure out a way to trick him about the present while we were out. It was the late opening that would pose the trickiest choice. Shop with Noah or without? If June and I didn’t leave until his bus came around 10:30, she would surely fall asleep in the stroller and I might miss my chance to work in the afternoon. And if we waited until after her afternoon nap, she might sleep too late and we’d miss our chance to go shopping at all.
Noah came to fetch Beth at 6:35. “It’s time for van,” he announced. In the mornings they are pretending to take a long road trip across the Americas in a van. He consults his atlas to select their destinations. That day it was Brazil. She got up and checked her iPhone while she was in his room. “Woo hoo! Two more hours!” I heard him yell.
Okay, a two-hour delay it was. That was the truth. Now I had to find a way to rejoice in it. I got up and went outside for the paper. The walk was slick and I slipped and almost fell. The grass was crunchy with ice and the dogwood was covered with little pearls of half-frozen water. I went back inside, made breakfast for myself and for June, gave her a bath and started a load of laundry. I decided to take Noah to the grocery store before his bus came. I was going to buy candy. I could either tell him the truth, that it was a present for him to share with June and try to generate some excitement about knowing a secret and not telling, or I could tell him it was for Beth and surprise him tomorrow with the fact that it was really for him. I decided he’d enjoy the surprise more so I settled on that plan.
Noah was unusually agreeable about taking a walk in the cold rain. He even submitted to wearing gloves and keeping the hood of his coat on his head. On the way, he slid on the icy patches of the sideway and he delighted in spotting and snapping off the icicles from cars, bushes, and the cart corral of the shopping center parking lot. He left a trail of them behind himself, so we could find our way home, he said.
The Safeway was like a fairy palace of pink, red and silver balloons. They were floating everywhere, more than I would have imagined could fit in the store. One checkout aisle had a bower of wire covered with red and white gauze and was marked “Cupid’s Lane.” “Wow!” Noah said when he caught his first glimpse of the store’s interior. He wanted to buy balloons, and some flowers, too, but I said no, and he accepted it.
We went over the candy display. I picked up a Whitman’s sampler. “Hey, I need to get something for Beth,” he said. It took him a long time to pick out just the right bag of chocolate hearts, but he finally settled on one. In the card aisle, he had an even harder time. He wanted to get cards for Beth and June. His first pick for Beth was addressed to “My Better Half,” and I explained it was more for boyfriends and girlfriends, or spouses. He finally chose one with a bouquet of roses on it that said, “Together” on the front and “I love being ‘us’ with you” inside. I decided the sentiment was appropriate even if it was probably intended for a romantic partner. (I’d just grabbed one that started “Let’s get naked” out of his hands, so I wanted to get out of the card aisle as soon as possible.) For June he got a card with a winged pig carrying a bow and arrow, marked “Cupig.” This made him laugh for a long time, once I explained it. Once we’d made our purchases, we ducked into Starbucks where I got a mocha and he and June got some vanilla milk and we split a vanilla cupcake three ways. We got home just in time for the bus. While we waited for it we pretended we were in outer space, the passing cars were asteroids and the rain was a shower of meteors.
It’s amazing how fun a walk in the freezing rain can be when your heart is open to the joy of it.
Thursday Morning: Love’s the Greatest Beauty
At 6:37 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, Noah stood in the doorway of our room, wearing his cloud pajamas. “It is time for presents,” he intoned in a solemn voice. We made him eat breakfast, feed the cats, brush his teeth and get dressed first, but then we opened our cards and presents. We now have three kinds of candy and a collection of roasted garlic products (crackers, mustard, onion jam and salad dressing). Garlic is a passion of Beth’s. I have the new Stephen King book to read (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duma_Key). Horror is a passion of mine. Good presents, but of course, we already had the greatest one of all.