I love you. Growing up as s child in the 50's and 60's, I don't recall those specific words being used in our house. I could be wrong but I doubt it. I don't think that the white, northern European cultures gave in to that sort of sentiment. I don't know if I am right about that but it would have been out of character in my family to have heard those words. That certainly doesn't mean that love wasn't the dominant force in the household. It was. It was simply demonstrated through actions (which were not always perceived as loving but they were) rather than words.
The first time I can remember specifically hearing those words was on January 8th, 1972. I was taking an evening walk on a SoCal beach with my then boyfriend. We'd been dating less than a month and believe me, I was shocked when the L word was dropped on the sand that night. I remember being so shocked that I didn't know what to say so I said nothing. Over the following week, the boyfriend dropped the word several times and, sure enough, by the next weekend, I got on board that train. That train then pulled out of the station and we were married a year later. And divorced within three years..... but that is another post.
Over the next 8 to 10 years, I became more personally comfortable with those three words. There were at least five other boyfriends with whom I freely and happily exchanged those words. The exchange didn't have to lead to marriage and that was not what I was necessarily looking for anyway. My definition of love had become much broader. I didn't have to withhold that word. I had discovered the warmth and goodness that comes with expressions of love and I was no longer shocked to hear or say strong words of affection.
"I love you" still wasn't a common expression in my family but I will never forget the one and only time I heard those words from my dad. It was late December of 1982 and I was up at the family home in Nor Cal. I had brought home with me the love of my life and clearly my dad was happy with my choice. The L of my L and I were planning a spring wedding and Papa was happy to know that I had sorted out the earlier mistakes of my life. Papa was forever hopeful about having grandchildren and this man, he could tell, was going to be good for me. As sleeping bags were being thrown on the living room floor and visitors to the 'rents home were settling in for the night, Papa came around checking in with the Love and me. After being assured that we had everything we needed, he hugged me and whispered those three words: "I love you." I was shocked again but this time my reaction was immediate. "I love you, too," I whispered back with unbelievably shiny eyes.
The Love and I were married in April of 1983 and Sonny Boy and his sister were born 2 and 4 years later. From the get go, those children heard TONS of I love yous. I would say they were showered in those words and they naturally gave them back. For me, my 20's opened the doors to that kind of language and it has become easy for me to let the words tumble out. I comfortably tell my siblings that I love them. I jubilantly tell my best girlfriends the same thing. My children will never NOT hear those words from me. Such a silly thing but it matters, yes?