It’s been a busy week. You know the kind – husband out of town, subbing, kids’ extra-curriculars, errands, sick kiddo. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing insurmountable, but just plain busy.
I had really been looking forward to going to church on Thursday night. Ella and Annie know how important this is to me; they’ve even accompanied me before when Nick’s been away so that I didn’t have to miss out. (Getting to consume Panera baked goods, use their iPads, and play with the toys that pastor Nancy brings may also have something to do with their agreement, but whatever.)
This week, though, was different. If I went to church – and by default, took them with me – they’d be gone (swimming, soccer, homework, babysitter, driving, move, move, move!) from the moment that school got out until bedtime. No playing with friends, no relaxing at home. It was a lot to ask, especially considering the busyness of the week, the sick kiddo (who had just returned to school and, I assumed, would be tired), and the toad they’d found in the back yard the day before, taken into captivity, and desperately wanted to
torture play with.
So, I told them the decision was in their hands. If they were game to be away from home for the entire afternoon and evening, to bring our dinner with us and then eat it at Panera, to wait while I did my church thing, then we’d go. But if they weren’t – if they were too tired, if they really wanted to go home, if they needed some downtime, if they just didn’t want to do it, then we wouldn’t. I told them that I was good with either decision; I meant it.
They decided they wanted to go. That, despite the crazy long day, the running around, the eating out of a cooler and not playing with their friends, we would go… so that I could get my church on. They did it for me. (And Nancy’s toys and the brownie I bought them, but hey. For me.)
On the way home, we chatted – as we do – and I thanked them. For coming with me, for giving up their free time, for being so patient, for enabling me to go to church, which I so deeply love. I told them I adore being with these women, and I feel good whenever I do so, and that I was really grateful they’d allowed me to attend.
“Um, you’re welcome. But mom,” they protested, “You didn’t get to go last week. And it means so much to you. And we love you. So we said yes.”
I started to thank them again when they added, “We also really like Miss Nancy’s toys.”
This is what love looks like.
It’s not the flashy signs or the expensive gifts or the dramatic proclamations of adoration (although it can be those things too; I wouldn’t complain). It’s the littler things, the ones that you don’t even think about, the ones that are so basic and mundane, they are all but unnoticed – but they are the love foundation that holds everything else up.
Love looks like your husband setting his alarm in the mornings on business trips, even when he’s in another time zone, so that he can be sure he has enough time to call your daughters before they go to school.
Love looks like your camp friend, whom you haven’t seen in 20 years, posting a message to your Facebook wall of long-forgotten camp songs and rhymes.
Love looks like your grandma saving packets of oyster crackers from her dinnertime soup and giving them to your daughters the next time she sees them, just because she knows they enjoy them.
It looks like your babysitter taking time out of her college graduation party to sit and talk with your kiddos, even though she has dozens of other guests to attend to. It looks like your other babysitter sending a thank-you note for the goodbye sign your daughters made her because she will miss them over the summer.
It is your father sending you links to stories from The New York Times because he thinks you might like them – stories that you would never have checked out on your own but you’re darned glad you did. It is doggie poop bags showing up at your door in an Amazon box after your mother reads on Facebook about how you never seem to have enough bags to pick up after your dogs.
Love looks like remembering that one child prefers the tops of asparagus while the other prefers the bottoms. It looks like the Valentine’s Day cards that show up in the mail from grandparents and uncles. It looks like taking a friend’s call even though you only have five minutes to talk because you know she had important news to share; it also looks like understanding when a friend doesn’t take your call because, hey, sometimes you just can’t talk right now and that’s okay.
Love looks like setting out sneakers for your daughter on gym day but also not bringing them to her at school if she forgets; love looks like allowing her to make mistakes and learn from them, then offering her a hug when she does.
It looks like friends inviting you over for a drink and some catching-up. It looks like your neighbors offering to watch your kids while you run an errand. It looks like the person at the gas station holding the door open for you.
Sometimes, love looks like opulence and flattery and vacations. Other times, it looks like remembering how you like your coffee. It looks like, “I’ll be right over.” It looks like your husband and daughters remembering that what one of the things you’d like most for Mother’s Day is time to write messages to your friends, and giving you time to do so.
Love looks like doing your spelling homework in the car and your science studying beside the soccer field and not returning home until bedtime so that your mama can get to church.