Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Silly Thing, Yes?

       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?


  1. "I love you" is such a part of our daily vocabulary, my kids expect it, and that is a very good thing.

  2. Sebtown - growing up in the 50s and 60s as well, I don't remember hearing those words either, even though I never doubted my parents loved me. In my family, like Michelle, we sat I love you every chance we get - multiple times a day! My favorite thing to say and hear ;)

  3. Hmmm... perhaps not such a silly thing. It's important for my monkeys to hear not only "I love you", but "I'm proud of you" and "I like you" a lot. And then to have them know it's true by the way I treat them.

  4. One day a few years ago, my youngest son was visiting me. He was in the army at the time and was home on a leave. I think he was in his mid 20's. I called my mom so that Jimmy could say hello. At the end of the conversation, before he hung up, he said "love you too, grandma." I was confused and asked Jimmy "Did grandma say I love you to you?" He said, "Yes, she always does." She always didn't say it to me and for that matter I never said it to her either. It was just not something we did. I guess we just took it for granted that each of us should know that we loved one another.
    That all changed when my mom became ill. As she spent the last few months of her life living with me, she told me she loved me every chance she got. And of course I replied, "love you too, mom."
    Interesting how much emotion those "three little words" can evoke, isn't it?

  5. "Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. What wrong with that, I want to know? What's wrong with that, I need to know?" Casey never leaves my sight without saying, "See you, Dad. I love you," even if twelveteen of his male friends are sanding right next to him. It's nice.

  6. My mother tended to say "I love you, but..." an awful lot when I was growing up and even her plain "I love you" tended to sound to me like some kind of neediness or pressure. As for my father--until my mother died (when I was 26), I don't remember my father saying he loved me except once--when I was seventeen, he called a family meeting and asked each of us around the table to tell everyone what we thought they needed to hear. We went around one-by-one voicing grievances and complaints, etc--all typical of what you'd expect four children between the ages of 12 and 17 to do if given free reign to voice their opinions. When it was his turn, he said, "I just wanted to say I love you all." I thought it was a manipulative and crappy thing to do then and I still wonder now about his motivations. (But that's a story for another day or maybe a story better never told at all.) Anyway, after my mother's death, he suddenly wanted to tell everyone he loved them all the time--at the end of every phone call, etc, etc and even became offended that I never said it first. It has become a huge and awkward issue between us because I am too damned stubborn, I guess.

    I am uneasy with the words, even though--or maybe because--the feeling is enormous and it is something I feel sort of guilty about especially as a mom. I showered my kids with it when they were younger, but as they've grown, I've kind of tried to let them set the tone because I didn't want them to feel that smothered feeling I sometimes got especially as a teenager. But then I've spent countless hours berating and second guessing myself and worrying if they really know how much I do love them and whether I've said it enough or shown it enough, etc.

    Obviously, this post struck a chord. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Hmmm -- MM -- perhaps you were reading between the lines here. DId you maybe notice someone I don't mention? It has become an awkward issue between the little mister (of 29 years) and me -- he doesn't say it. I miss it. I think he is like you - uneasy with words. He thinks his actions should be plenty. I need the reassurance or concrete, clear, direct words. C'est le vie.
    Complicated, no?