When he was just a little feller, my (now) nine-year-old was playing in his toybox and he happened upon a fabric-wrapped foam baseball bat imprinted, appropriately, with pictures of Batman. He held that bat up as one would upon discovering the Holy Grail of sporting equipment, and said with a heart overflowing with tender passion,
“I love you, baseball bat. I love you sooooooooo much.”
In “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” L. Frank Baum wrote, “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” While I’m not normally one to contradict the guy who brought the world sparkly ruby slippers, my boys are my daily reminder that love – true Batman bat love – should be bountiful and boundless and flung far and wide like dandelion fluff and fairy dust and Batman bat balls (which can go surprisingly far considering they are the weight of a travel pack of cottonballs).
My five-year-old hates a well-balanced meal. He loves everything else in the world. He loves so many things that he feels the need to create a running comprehensive list, which means that he and I will have conversations like this:
Me: I love you with all my heart.
Five: I love you so so so much to the moon and then to Mars and then thiiiiiiiiiiiiis much more than that.
Five: And I love Daddy, and my brother, and my teacher, and my other teacher, and my new socks, and my old socks, and recess, and music, and Old McDonalds chicken nuggets, and praying mantises, and the Titanic, and this book [pulls book out of bookcase], and this book [pulls another book out of bookcase], and this book [pulls another book out of bookcase]…
This will continue on until he is names off a book or a toy or a snack or a person that he actually wants at that moment, and then he will put a mental pin in his list until he is ready to revisit it at a future point in time. Like the other day, when he was taking off his snow gear and burst into tears.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, searching him over for some invisible ailment.
“I love Miss Dakota,” Five wailed.
The day we brought Five home from the hospital, my old and ornery cat, Dakota, marched downstairs to the basement guest bedroom and didn’t come out again until the morning she died. If Dakota had carried even a tinkling of goodwill towards children, it had been dashed away with the arrival of Nine; and she definitely couldn’t have been bothered to use her remaining years to even acknowledge Five’s existence, let alone show him any affection.
My first instinct was to remind my son that he had other pets with whom he did interact; animals who, as opposed to Dakota, probably loved him back. But that would have meant I was putting up a fence around a kid who was blowing love out into the universe like bubbles, and so I told him a funny story about Dakota (as a kitten she liked to sleep with her paws on my hair and her butt in my face), and he named off a few more things that he loved, including a banana with chocolate chips on top – which he became distracted by and then ate. I hope he will keep his list going forever.
Today is Valentine’s Day, and in celebration I think we should all make our own non-exhaustive list of things that we love. Here are a few of mine: Ole and Lena jokes delivered with a proper accent; artichokes; the way my kids will give me a minute-by-minute recap of a movie we all just watched together; waking up and realizing it’s a Saturday in June; and writing stories for ND Nice.
The photo above is of Five when he was a curly-haired marshmallow baby.