After my first bout of puppy love, I began to question the meaning of true love. I yearned to find the love of my life.
Like most girls growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I mooned over movie stars, cut out their pictures from fan magazines, and longed to feel a grand passion like those portrayed on the silver screen: Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty in “Splendor in the Grass,” Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Kirk Douglas and Jean Simmons in “Spartacus.”
“You’ll fall in love,” my gramma assured me.
“But how will I know?” I wondered.
“Oh, honey, you’ll just know. You’ll feel something special.”
Still, Gram’s words were too vague for me. I wanted examples, stories, details.
“You’ll think you’ve been hit over the head with a sledgehammer,” Sandra Dee’s mother told her in the movie “Gidget.” Well, I thought, that doesn’t sound too promising.
At college, we debated the question of true love in a freshman religion course. I was as perplexed as ever. The professor defined love: “Love exists in the presence of caring for someone more than you care for yourself.” His words left me cold. Where was the talk of fireworks, sparks, ardor, attachment, eroticism?
I continued in my angst. If love was like my mother and stepfather’s relationship, I wasn’t interested. If love meant fights and reconciliations, like I’d experienced with a boy in high school, I wanted no part of it.
Of course, I did fall in love — my junior year. We were to be married, but Vietnam intervened.
It would be several years (and therapy sessions) later that I would fully understand that my complex issues with love and trust centered around one traumatic event in my childhood: my father’s abandonment of his wife and family when my sister and I were infants. He rejected us completely. We never saw or heard from him again. “Sperm donor” is how my sister refers to him now.
Today, I recall three great loves of my life. Yet, I’m more interested in finding joy and love and happiness in the moment.
Recently, I came across a card and a book my brother had given me on Valentine’s Day years ago. “I love you, sorta,” he had written. The book is “Love Is Walking Hand in Hand” by Charles Schulz.
In the past few days, rereading this tiny tome has brought me pleasure. Schulz’s take on love is simple, yet profound. Love is in the little things — acts of kindness, sharing, being, caring. “Love is getting someone a glass of water in the middle of the night.” “Love is a phone call.”
I remember using the book in my kindergarten and first-grade classrooms long ago. Valentine’s Day was my favorite holiday at school, and I’d read the book aloud. The students would make valentine cards for their families and friends and write their own love essays. Here’s a glimpse:
Love is . . .
a nice, warm house on a cold day.
someone you can trust no matter what.
holding your puppy in your arms.
helping an old lady across the street.
being together in a family.
having a friend when you need it.
having someone to lay your head on.
whispering in a friend’s ear.
your baby brother hugging you.
sleeping in your own bed.
when people say “Hi” and smile at the person.
being nice and not calling names.
a party on your birthday.
singing songs together.
when you care.
when something is hurt and you save it.
when your friend talks up for you.
knowing that a person likes you.
a private life.
making up with someone.
a deep and tender feeling.
And, my favorite, love makes me feel good inside.
Here’s wishing you love in each moment of every day, whether you’re alone, with your family, or with the love of your life. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Dianne Moritz writes children’s books from her home in North Sea. She has had poems and stories recently in High Five and Hello, from the Highlights magazine group.