“I was born to love you, heart to heart”
We like to put the little guy to bed together. He tilts his Tiger pillow pet against the pillows. I lie down on the left side of the bed, T. on the right, and the little guy squares off his sturdy shoulders and flops his legs from one of our thighs to the other, whispering quiet somethings that only T. can hear. We all lie together until he’s still, almost asleep, when I swing my feet to the floor and lean over in the dark to kiss his cheek. “I love you, little guy,” I say. Then I walk around to the other side, kiss T. in the dark, and leave the room. I don’t know what they say after.
His room has the essential talismans of a lively mind, a cheerful soul and an eager child. He keeps a picture of the Virgin Mary under his pillow to ward off nightmares. If the nightmares still come, he talks about them in dismay the next day. He can’t believe they are so scary. He has a little round plush Angry Bird that he hugs while he sleeps. He keeps his castle and knights on his train table. He has books stacked on both night tables. Some nights he points up to the bookshelf across the room and asks me to read him Parsley by Ludwig Bemmelmans. This was one of my favorite books when I was a little boy, and he claims it as one of his favorites now too.
Sometimes we read Tintin and he laughs even though he doesn’t know exactly what’s funny. “Is it supposed to be funny?” he asked once. “You’re laughing,” I said. “Right, it’s funny,” he chortled, and then returned to his breathless, unfettered laugh.
I’ve got video on my phone of him break dancing all around the room. He has a huge brown teddy bear named Rodney in the corner. Against the wall is the first piece of furniture his mother and I bought together, a long couch with tapered arms that was reupholstered with light blue fabric when the little guy was born.
One night I came into the room after T. and the little guy were in bed. The light was off. T. called me over.
“Tell Daddy what you told me,” she said to the little guy.
His voice was earnest and soft. He spoke as if he were reciting a pledge.
“I was born to love you, heart to heart,” he said.
T. was glittering. “Isn’t that beautiful?” she said.
“Where did you hear that,” I asked.
“I didn’t hear it,” the little guy said. “I thought it and I said it to Mommy because it is true. And I’m saying it to you because it’s true to you too.”
When I knew that I was in love with his mother, and that it is was different from the other loves that I had thought were true, I said to her that we would go into life “shoulder to shoulder.” The phrase was significant because of everything shared and equal it signified, the trust and confidence that come with facing battle together, knowing that no matter what, we were protecting each other’s flank.
Our son shared with us his spontaneous image of true love: two hearts blended into one, destined to be together, made free by their union, distinct by their sharing, beating in an intimate harmony that echoes and swells until it drowns out all other sound.
“That’s cool,” I said. “I was born to love you too, heart to heart. Your mommy too.”
It is true.
The three of us hugged and the little guy went to sleep.