Years ago, when I was a teenager, I volunteered in a retirement home. One day, a family came in to visit a loved one and they had a three-year-old foster child with them. She was a very big girl for her age and she looked sad. I gravitated toward her, wanting to cheer her up. As the family busied themselves with their elderly relative, I played with the girl in the hallway. We warmed up to each other quickly, and as piano music played from a room nearby, I held her hands for a dance. After a couple of minutes, without thinking, I picked her up and began twirling with her in my arms. She looked at me with surprise.
“No one ever picks me up,” she said, “I’m too heavy.” Her expression fell.
“You’re not too heavy,” I told her. ”You just need someone who’s strong enough to hold you.”
I ended up telling her a story about how nature tends to give us what we need in life, or at least gives us a clue. Big girls, I told her, need all that room for their unusually big hearts…but not everyone can handle a heart like that, so nature puts it in a heavy package so that only those who are strong enough to carry that kind of love can get close.
I was 14, and maybe I was trying to make a big child feel better about herself, but I still believe everything I said.
Years have passed since then, and I’m never more aware of the nature of love than when I look at my daughter.
She has been the only person in the world strong enough to hold my heart for the distance and, quite frankly, the only person who’s ever wanted to. For this, and so many other reasons that words can’t capture, I feel exquisitely tender when I look at her. Tears well up, sentimental strings get plucked, and I find myself smiling with a thank-you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for letting me love you. You may never know what it has meant to me, but it has only been everything.
I know —
My love isn’t a feather or a wing.
It is not a root or a branch,
or a cloudless blue sky.
My love is not a blanket,
a shining sun, or a calm sea.
My love is a cosmic storm,
a magnetic atmosphere,
an aurora borealis
It is the eye of a hurricane
and a hot constellation of stars
It is Orion —
a hunter and a shield —
and it is Mother Nature,
fierce, tender, protective.
It is the Scales of Justice,
wanting to right all the wrongs
& it is the Child
with eternally-wide eyes
and infinite hopes.
My love is not quite human.
It is not a card, or a flower,
or a singular feeling.
It is not skin or bone,
or time or space,
and it is nowhere in the ancient scrolls
or on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
My love, I know, is not easy to bear.
One teaspoonful of a neutron star
can weigh a billion tons
& even one grain of my love
calls for a strong constitution.
That you have born it —
that you have given me the gift
of a willing heart & a solid spine —
That you weather my storms
and carry my grains as if they were wings —
That you have let me give you all that I am
without reservation —
For all of this,
and for being the only person in the world
who has traversed this galaxy with me
in any measure —
My love, not altogether human,
but forever and always.