On a recent evening, I was playing with my three and a half year old twin daughters on our playroom floor, when my husband returned from work. I got to see – down on the floor, from their viewpoint – the look on their father’s face when he saw them. It was heartbreakingly sweet – a look of absolute and pure delight. A look that told them in just a flash that the absolute highlight of his day, any day, is the time that he spends with them.
I know how he feels about our girls because he tells me. When we are alone at night, he tells me he can’t believe how lucky he is. He delights in new words they say, new interests they develop, questions they ask. He works hard at being a creative parent, at finding ways to support them, challenge them, and bring them happiness.
They, on the other hand, know how he feels about them because he shows them. With his actions, the time he spends with them – with that look.
I believe in the power of that look. I believe in the power that look has, when you get to see it day in and day out of your childhood, to profoundly impact your self-worth. When my parents gave me that look, it taught me that I was a person of value who was loved not because of what I did or what I would become, but because of who I was. My mom and dad helped me understand that I was deserving of that love.
My mom died very suddenly from a brain aneurysm when she was 57 and I was 26. She died before my girls were born, before I was even married. Just a week after she died, I had a dream that I don’t talk about much, for fear of sounding a little kooky. It was more than a dream – more real, more vivid. If I wasn’t a good Episcopalian from Kansas, I might call it a visitation. In it, I was shopping with my mom and I was pregnant. We were shopping for the yet-to-be born baby. The first part of the dream was so enjoyable, just spending time with her. Suddenly, in the middle of the dream, I became aware that I was dreaming. Time with my mom would never, ever happen again. She was gone. I told her this much in the dream. She stopped and looked at me – and I got to see the most beautiful, peaceful look on her face; she told me she loved me and gave me a hug I can still feel to this day. For years after the dream, it was the hug I longed for. That physical sensation of being held by your mother, made more powerful when you know it’s happening for the last time. It is only in recent years that I’ve come to appreciate the fact that I got to see the look one last time, too. I now know that, despite what’s happened to me in the last eight years since I lost her – both successes and disappointments – it’s the same exact look she would give me today. That it transcends what I do, where I work, what I’ve bought – that it says that you are loved for who you are. Always.
I believe in that look – shared between the people in this world who love us most. I believe, for me, that look has even transcended death. And I believe I’ve seen the power of it take root in my girls, a power I hope with all my heart will outlive their parents, as well.
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