Small Love Holds Us Together



When my first son was born, it had been a long, rough road for both of us. His collarbone snapped as he was finally delivered. They laid him on my chest, and I looked in his eyes and we had a moment of clear recognition before they whisked him away. He emerged so fine and lovely in spite of the broken bone and the long struggle.

“It’s you!” I said. “Hello!” I was so full of joy and gratitude, and his wide eyes blinked back at me.

My son is a man now and we have had a long struggle. We are so different in some ways, yet so similar. We stand in better years, now. I watch him forge a path with his wit and work ethic and curiosity—some of the very things I bumped up against while trying to corral him as a small dynamo. I look at the set of those eyes, bright and full of determination, and wonder, “Where did you come from?” But in another moment I see the same tilt to those eyes, and once again, “Oh, it’s you.”

I hope he feels fully seen, fully loved, fully recognized by his family. We have often been different than what he might have wanted. I’m introverted and into quiet walks. I’m loud about my work—messy, creative, disorganized. My go-to outfit is thick fleece for running with the dog or hiking. Socially, I prefer a few friends in a quiet coffee shop over a large party gathering. My son is social, motivated, ready to go, and much more direct and economical in his work. He’s quieter about getting it all done. He looks fabulous in fine clothes. He loves a city, a party, a big group.

It was the small loves that held us together.

Somewhere in the pre-teen years, we bought a game. Our son and his friends loved it, but I wasn’t up to deep strategy, so they found a game for me—Dominion. When others see the huge stack of expansions for my game, they are seeing more than my obsession. Our board game cupboard is a real expression of our attempts to find ways to be together. These boxes are love notes to me. They whisper, “I love you Mom.”

We went to Europe a few years ago without one of our sons. He wanted to do something different with friends. We had a great time, but I missed him. I lit candles in old churches and said prayers for my absent child. At Christmas this year, my sons went together to pick out a votive for me: hand blown and heavy, green with a blue swirl, it glows almost white when lit.

Our son will soon graduate and moves across the country. I will light my candle and pray for his days and work, knowing that he has a deep affection for his family. But I worry. We’ve always needed these small ways to stay in touch—donuts and coffee and midnight movies and board games. He will be very, very far away.

We will need new small-loves to express this love that began that day we‘d been through so much together, when I looked at this strong child: mine, and yet wholly himself.

As he goes off to school he takes all the ways we have loved him along with him. I hope he carries with him that moment of being seen and recognized, of whole-hearted welcome, to his family, to the world. If there are challenges ahead of him—and there are challenges ahead for us all—I pray that a lifetime of small love, those tiny, commonplace expressions of daily love, will continue to hold him together.