While visiting my sister in New York last week, she lamented (in her Nora Ephron manner), “No one ever makes me a salad. A salad is the ultimate gesture of love.” I knew what she meant, even as I sat idly by watching her prepare a salad for lunch: a salad requires multiple tedious, separate preparations of individual vegetables; a semi-mathematical or at least strategic procurement or curation of complementary ingredients; the taste-and-see mixing of oils and vinegars for dressing; tossing; plating. And clean-up is never simple. There are scraps of vegetables, cutting boards, tongs, oily countertops, a salad spinner, nubs of Romaine. A peanut butter sandwich it is not.
Love is also letting someone pick the first ice cream flavor.
Love is attention.
Love is leaving the light on — or, in my case, remembering to switch it off. Likely following my wanton ways, our children routinely neglect to turn off the light in the top floor play area, and, every night, Mr. Magpie trudges up there to complete the final chore bookending his day. One night, I popped up there and flipped it off before he’d ascended. He noticed immediately and — I kid you not — told me that it was the most romantic thing I’d ever done for him.
Love bears all things.
I wrote yesterday that a true apology asks for nothing — and neither does love. It exists blind to the concepts of obligation, demand, greed.
Love is listening.
Love is being there. And not often in a dramatic way. I mean that love is often a quiet presence that builds up over time: the grandparent at every baseball game, the sister who always answers her phone, the friends who gather in pews at a family funeral, the neighbor who springily drops by the cup of sugar you lack or the box of puzzles you need while you are enduring 20 days of quarantine or the folding chairs for your party, the parents who write letters to you while you study abroad and then fly across the globe to visit you while there and, later, to listen to you read a very boring, poorly delivered academic paper on James Joyce. (Ahem.)
Love receives. It nods its head, it embraces, it accepts.
Love is worrying not so much about The Thing, but the way The Thing will impact its object. By this I mean, two weeks ago, my parents endured a stressful home ownership issue involving a leak in the first floor of their house. On the phone, my mother was dismissive of the issue itself, instead informing me, testily: “Dad does not need this right now.” That is, she was unperturbed by the issue, but furious that the issue had caused my father any frustration.
My point is this: I looked across the island at my sister as she diced tomatoes into cute quarters, going about her business with a kind of bristling perfunctoriness, drying her hands on the dish towel, swinging open the refrigerator door, whisking the dressing, and I thought my heart would explode. I realized that perhaps I have on occasion overlooked love because it was dressed like salad. (Or a switched-off light, or a testy response to a burst pipe, or or or into infinity.)
Cheers to love.
*Written as I head into my other sister’s deferred-twice-because-of-COVID wedding weekend in Boston! **I owe my sister a salad.
+There’s always a light on for your siblings.
+On the difference between a background in the humanities and STEM.
+Love the look of this $25 coverup.
+Literally a perfect Memorial Day dress.
+Fact: you will be a Bond Girl if you wear this suit.
+Ordered these adorable shorts for micro.
+Stunning under $200 wedding guest dress.
+Fun pool or bath toys for kids — we have these!
+Picked up some extra mealtime gear as we will have my niece and nephew with us for nearly ten days — all my favorites here, but specifically ordered extra silicone mats and these easy lunchboxes for picnics.
+OMG these $16 safari-themed trunks!
+These adorable botanical-print mules are on sale for $66.