How Do You Know It’s Love?

Some people think that hugs, kisses, flowers, candy, and compliments are the only ways to appropriately express love. As a result, many feel unloved in the midst of loving acts.

During my growing up years I rarely received hugs, kisses, or flattery. However, I never doubted that I was loved because Mama and Daddy showed how much they loved by their actions. These constant expressions of love were thoughtful and from the heart.

Daddy was a serious man when it came to his work, but jovial and funny when he was with family. Even without overt affection, I sensed Daddy’s love, most often expressed in deeds.

I can still picture in my mind one example of Daddy’s selfless caring. Each person in our family had a pair of everyday shoes and a pair of Sunday shoes. Daddy valued shiny shoes, but not just his own. So, every Saturday evening he collected all of our shoes and took them to the back porch. There he polished and shined each pair and placed them side-by-side in a row. His two pair, two pair for Mama, two pair for big bro, David, and two pair for me. The unspoken message of that row of shiny shoes was, “I love you all and want you to look really spiffy during the coming week.” The unspoken compliment was, “I’m proud of my family.”

Through Daddy’s many special projects and activities he showed his love for us. Some of the things that stand out in my memory include:
  • Hiking in the mountains.
  • Fishing trips.
  • Building a bike for me out of parts he picked up at second hand stores and the junkyard, and then painting the finished product bright red – making it the envy of my friends.
  •  Crafting a sled for my brother and me from leftover scraps of wood.
  •   Playing baseball with our neighborhood team.
  • Driving me to the lake to ice skate.
  • Taking me shopping for a new dress I did not ask for because he noticed I had a lot fewer dresses than did other teen-aged girls in our church.

Mama had her own ways of showing love for her children. Mama worked herself to the bone to be sure we lived in the most immaculately kept house in the neighborhood while providing us with well-balanced meals, baking our bread, doing our washing and ironing, and canning hundreds of jars of fruits and vegetables each summer so we would have delicious food after the garden had been plowed under. Beyond these duties, she expressed her love in many special ways.

One event that stands out in my mind takes me back to sixth grade. Everything about our existence was conservative. Some things because we needed to conserve resources, but other things were related to beliefs of our church.

During sixth grade we moved to a new neighborhood and I became close friends with Joanne, another sixth grader who lived next door. She took baton lessons and would come home each week and teach me what she had learned. Eventually, she became quite accomplished and her parents purchased a nicer baton for her. Then we practiced together and one day she gave me her old baton. All of this went on in our adjoining yards and Mama seemed to have no problem with me learning this rather worldly activity.

The problem developed while our sixth grade class was planning a talent show. I auditioned along with Joanne and another classmate to twirl batons for the show and we won a spot in the program. Problem? Costuming. Joanne was my size and was willing to share a costume with me, but the hemline would be quite a bit above my knees. My normal everyday dresses were below the knee and had long sleeves. (I also wore long, brown stockings.)

My teacher apparently guessed that my parents were not aware I was scheduled to perform, so she called Mama in for a conference. I will never know what was said during that conversation, but the biggest compromise of my life was made in a sixth grade classroom and I wasn’t even involved in the negotiations. The deal was that I would wear a skirt that was not quite as short as Joanne’s performance outfits. This skirt belonged to my teacher’s sixth grade daughter. Also, I would wear flats and be allowed to have bare legs. The deal at home was that Mama would attend the talent show but Daddy would not know about the performance. All I had to do was promise not to tell anyone about the show. Mama had to really love me to make that deal! And, during his time on this earth, Daddy never heard about “the deal” from me.

Other things Mama did that said she loved me include:
  • Freshly baked cookies when I arrived home from school.
  • Hours spent adding details to the dresses she made for me (and she didn’t even like to sew).
  • Her extreme patience while she taught me to bake cookies and make candy.
  • The many hours she spent reading books to me, even after I could read myself.
  • The fudge and popcorn she made for us to eat while we worked puzzles on snowy winter evenings, this being done after she had worked all day tending her castle.
  • The time she spent teaching me to add the columns and rows on the calendar so I would be good at mental math.

The list of “I love you” events in our home could become very long.

My generation was more open to verbal and physical expressions of love, but I truly hope my words were supported by my actions and that, during those events, my children heard, “I love you,” very clearly.

“Love is nature’s way of giving, a reason to be living.”
     ~Line in the title song of the 1955 film, “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing.”

Clipart from HubPages and J.Rae’s Shabby Cottage


Only With The Heart

While in undergraduate school, I was enrolled in a children’s literature course taught by a very serious scholar. On the first day of class she informed us that any student she heard using the designation, “Kiddy Lit,” for her favorite literature genre would be given the grade of "F" for the class. We were believers.

When we were assigned to read, annotate, and create a card file (200 minimum) of our favorite Kindergarten through sixth grade books for children (and also to type the information as a document to submit for grading) I wondered about this busy work. However, after spending many hours in the library and reading hundreds of books written for children, I came to appreciate the purpose of this assignment. During the many years I taught elementary school and middle school literature, I used this file often to locate books for use in units of study.

This time-consuming assignment also introduced me to the fact that many children’s books contain messages for adults. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery is one such book, and a quote from this book came to mind this week while I was reflecting on life, and hurts, and just “getting over stuff.”

The Little Prince:

“And now here is my secret,
     a very simple secret.
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
     what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

These reflections also made me wonder about passages I included in my novel and if these passages came from a deep place in my heart rather than coming just from imagination.

Arthur Thomas in Child of Desire:*

“A man’s pride is a daughter. That she is exceptionally beautiful and smart is a gift. Never would a loving father intentionally hurt his daughter. But a thoughtless and careless father might cause hurt and live forever with regret. I will always love you! Papa.”

I know that only God sees my heart, but I sometimes wish for an invisible connection between my heart and the hearts of others that might serve to facilitate understanding.

 Heart Clipart ~ MyCuteGraphics

* The second edition of Child of Desire is scheduled for publication on Amazon during the month of March and will be available on Kindle.


No Resolutions

The holiday season was busy in our household and I did not even think about New Year’s Resolutions. So in place of resolutions this year, I have copied a C. S. Lewis quote and placed it where I will see it often.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

I need to be reminded of this when I am overwhelmed by memories of failure and feel regret.

“My flesh and my heart faileth: [but] God [is] the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:26

Clipart from clipartsgram. com