"I love you more than you know, Mommy," my little one tells me as he crawls into bed beside me at 5:53 AM, pulls my hair, and presses his nose against mine.
"Rrmmf." I open my eyes and to meet his beautiful brown ones staring square at me. "I love you, too, Stink."
If you can believe it, the little one pushes his nose even further into mine--like mashing Play-Doh balls together--as his eyes take on a murderous glint.
"Mommy, what have I told you about copying me?!"
There is so much truth to everything my little one does--the whole way that we hurt the very one we love at the moment we are loving them and then forbid them to return their affection in the same way, as if each expression of fondness must be original in order to be genuine.
But it doesn't, and the last twenty-four hours watching a dear friend say goodbye to the love of her life have cemented that for me.
I love you all so much more than you know, and, even though I have stolen the words from the little one, they are no less true.
I love my little one in his short skinny ferocity. I love the way he charms the old ladies with his shy smile and questions which ultimately net him a toy, a treat, or just a pat on the head. I love his insistence that he is right and that fireworks are really planets, planes leaving vapor trails are meteors, and he really was in my belly at the same time as his brother but it just took God two years longer to put him together. I love him so much it blows my mind.
And, even though he is my favorite, I am equally certain, in the paradox that is motherhood, that his brother is the one I like best. I love the big one's ability to traverse a day completely in movement with no words whatsoever. When he does deign to speak, I am flabbergasted at his depth of insight. "Of course infinity plus one million isn't more than infinity because infinity is always getting bigger and can't even be compared. Duh! Everybody knows that." No, big one, not everybody knows that, especially not every seven-going-on-eight (don't forget the going-on-eight part!) year-old.
And my husband. What can I say about how much I love my husband? That I would travel half the world to be with him again and again? That he would do--has done, in fact--the same for me? How can you put love of that magnitude into words?
But the incredibly amazing thing is that the love doesn't end there.
I can't put to words the affection I feel for my mother when her foot is in her mouth, the amusement my father's sarcasm stirs in me, the lift of my heart when I see my sister's name on the caller ID (and the excitement I get from all the antics of her children), or the pride and joy with which I watched my brother teach my boys how to climb trees. What of the aunts, uncles, grandparents?
But when you think you'd run out of love, it expands.
There are my in-laws to consider: my niece, whom I fell in love with immediately after my husband; my nephew, who always longs to be going somewhere--anywhere; my husband's brother and his wife, who were the first to accept me into the family; my sister-in-law and her husband, who love my boys almost (maybe even) as much as I do; my father-in-law, who shares my sense of humor; and my mother-in-law, who has proven her determination to love me again and again. How could I live without them?
How could I live without my friends in Korea who made my life bearable and helped me find the support I needed on those "What the H***?" days when I just couldn't get control of the world around me? How much I appreciated the help of my non-Korean friends sharing their struggles to adapt and how much I benefited from the love and patience of my Korean friends who forgave my missteps and misperceptions and showed me how to be a doing-friend and not a just-talking-friend.
How could I survive daily without my neighbors now? The woman I pray with nearly every day is a constant source of support. She's always looking and listening and trying--no matter how far-fetched or flaky. If that isn't open-minded, I'm not sure what is. I love my down-the-parking-lot friend in her searching, arguing stubbornness. I love that she doesn't even want the President of the United States telling her kids what to do. I love the way she prompts her children to give to others, the way she faces life head on, the way she works multiple shifts in a row every weekend in order to be available to her children. I love my across-the-street neighbor with her patience, listening, and intuitiveness. I will never forget her Mother's Day pajama gift to me on a day that I felt particularly unloved. Her sharing of her struggles has given me more hope than she can ever know. I know she prays because after I talk to her, things happen. It's like living next to the Apostle Paul but without the arrogant misogynistic tendencies. And I love my next-door neighbors and their children who knock on my door to see if my kids can play, don't believe me when I say no, and then press their noses against my living room window to peer in and check if I lied.
And what of those friends I never see, the people around the world with whom I digitally derive support each and every day? They are no less real, their encouragement no less uplifting.
I love this world for its surprises and its synchronicity, for what it can be, for God's ability to bring forward incredible people to touch one another--our life writers from whom I have received so much incredible wisdom and caring, those at the school, the kids on the playground, the workers around.
I love you all so very much more than you know.
Now go tell someone else while the telling is good.