who have you, who have you been loving?

“I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for their religion –
I have shudder’d at it.
I shudder no more.
I could be martyr’d for my religion
Love is my religion
And I could die for that. I could die for you.”
– John Keats

I once asked Mr. Kelly what love is. He laughed at me.

“What is love? I’m not sure I can define that one for you. Love is … love is lots of things. Love is everything.”

No, that wasn’t good enough. “Mr. Kelly, do you believe in one person? That one person can be all you need in the world?” I asked.

“No,” he said with certainty. “No one person can be all that you need. It is better to fill your life with a multitude of amazing people, taking a little of what you need from each of them.”

Tonight my phone rings while I’m sitting on my couch reading a book. On the other end, I’m greeted by the giggles of my 4-year-old nephew.

“I love you, Aunt Blair,” he declares a couple of minutes into the conversation and no force on Earth can keep away the smile that splits across my face.

“Oh yeah? You ooey gooey love me?” I ask.

“Nooooo!” he squeals. “Love isn’t gooey!”

“What is love then?”

“Love is when someone gives you all of their french frieds without making you give them any of yours.”

Huh. I think that might have beat out Mr. Kelly’s definition.

Unlike grownups or even teenagers, kids don’t have a filter. There is no deception or lies; they say what they mean and not what is appropriate or what makes sense. They don’t know anything about rules or etiquette. They are honest and pure and I have endless respect for that.

So since my 4-year-old Tripp is in a happy and talkative mood, I ask him what else he thinks love is.

“Love is when Mommy makes Dad coffee and drinks it before she gives it to him to make sure that it tastes good.”

What else?

“When I telled Beth at school that I liked her shirt. Now she wears that shirt a lot.”

Well when you look at it that way — what a beautiful thing, that love.

I like to think about it outside of the box. Like maybe Mr. Kelly was right about one person not being enough. Because there are some people who come into your life who you know will be with you forever. They’re people you can be totally natural with, who don’t ask you to prove anything or to be anything other than yourself. It’s love – not the kind with hearts and flowers or birds and bees. It’s love even bigger than that.

So in the spirit of an old man and a very young boy, I, too, wrote down a few definitions of love.

  • Love is when you have a bad day and your best friend is waiting for you when you get home because she knows you need to talk. And even though she lives across an ocean with a six hour time difference, she is there waiting on her computer, Skype phone in hand, up past her bed time because you could use a transcontinental drinks date.
  • Love is when you drive across two states in the middle of the work week because your little brother doesn’t have a way home (or any money to get him there) from college for Spring Break. Love is when he scoops you up and spins you around as soon as you step out of the car … even with all of his cool friends watching.
  • Love is spending time with an old man in the last years of his life because he is too great to spend them alone. Love is teaching a young girl to be good, to be brave, to be smart and strong, to be a friend. Love is making her believe she might already be all of those things. Love means still wishing for his advice all these years later.
  • Love is when your mom mails you 10 umbrellas via UPS because she knows your upstairs neighbors flood your apartment every time they run the dishwasher and you just might need a laugh. Love is when she throws in a couple of pool rafts, too.
  • Love is when your father helps you shop for a car. And he asks a million questions and makes you test drive 30 different models and he surveys other customers in the parking lot and embarrasses you for the first time since you were in middle school … all because he wants you to be safe and happy.
  • Love is a friend who drives 4 hours just to help you paint your apartment.
  • Love is when he tells you that you are perfect. Because we all know that no one is. Love is when he tells you to go have your adventures, even if it means moving away.

“Mommy loves me more than anyone else in the whole world because she kisses me when I go to sleep every night,” Tripp tells me when we’re talking tonight on the phone. “I wouldn’t let anybody else kiss me.”

“Not even me?” I ask, feigning shock and hurt. “Not even your favorite aunt?”

“Maybe kisses for Aunt Blair,” Tripp says and begins to giggle hysterically. “Know what, Aunt Blair? I love you so much I’d let you have all the french frieds.”

And with the phone to my ear, curled up on my couch I clutch my bursting heart and smile. And I wish for time to stop, for this feeling to stay with me forever.

“But you’d share back with me right, Aunt Blair? I love french frieds.”

Of course I’d share. Because that’s love.


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