Deep Structures: What my residual image of love looks like.

A small, square, wooden book cover. On the lefthand side, the book is bound with red string. In the center of the cover, a red wooden heart. Below the heart, "I love you" is printed in blue.

This book is simple. It arrived at my house today. The package that contained it was sent to me several months ago and I thought it might’ve gotten lost in the mail, but apparently it just took the post office 4.5 months to figure out I’d moved.

Inside pages of a small, wooden book. On the left page, "when you laugh" is printed in blue. On the right page, a yellow smiling sun.

It’s a little wooden book that my parents gave me when I was young. I don’t remember being given it. I just remember thinking of it throughout my childhood as a gift from “my parents”, as a unit. So, I must have been very young.

Inside pages of a small, wooden book. On the left page, "when you are sad" is printed in blue. On the right page, seven blue rain/tear drops of various sizes.

Looking at it now, I wonder why they picked it out. Was it a cute whim grabbed at some giftshop or garage sale? Could they tell, even as a child, that I would need extra reassurance? Did they simply realize that most children (and humans of all ages) sometimes need a pocket-sized reminder that they are loved even when they feel the most unlovable?

Inside pages of a small, wooden book. On the left page, "when you are angry" is printed in blue. On the right page, grey thunderclouds and a yellow lightning bolt.

A few years back, I gave the book to a person I was in love with and who was angry a lot of the time. The place for that story isn’t here. He was the kind of person who doesn’t believe in magic but does a whole lot of it anyway, without realizing. One day, after we hadn’t talked for a long time, he offered to send it back and I said yes.

Inside pages of a small, wooden book. On the left page, "even when I don't understand you" is printed in blue. On the right page, a rainbow made of four colors: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue.

I don’t know what it means that it showed up at my house today. (Other than that the US Postal Service is…slower than e-mail.) I do know that the world we know when we’re children shapes the sense we make our whole lives. I got a lot of sad things imprinted on me when I was small — especially after my parents stopped being a unit. But I also got this definition of love: That loving someone means loving their feelings. All the feelings. My life might be easier if I didn’t believe that, but I don’t think it would be better.

Inside pages of a small, wooden book. On the left page, "I love you because you are who you are" is printed in blue. On the right page, a circle containing: a yellow, smiling sun; three blue teardrops; a grey thundercloud with a yellow lightning bolt; a rainbow made of four colors -- red, yellow, green, blue.

This simple, square, wooden artifact tied together with red string has so much personal provenance. When I first got it back, I thought about passing the book on to someone else, another child or adult in my life who might benefit from it. I decided to hold onto it myself. I have a lot of feelings, too, and I haven’t outgrown the need to be reminded that they’re part of what makes me lovable. But I wanted for people I love to have the same reminder. And for people I don’t know to be able to remind each other. So, I put it on the Internet.

Here. You can keep it in your pocket.

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