This I Believe

Rachel - Bellevue, Washington
Entered on December 15, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, love
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I believe in the power of words…written, spoken, whispered, and especially in the power of the endearment. Words carry affection, strength, common memories, hope of the future, and certainly love. And the lowly endearment – in short order – includes all this.

Now I have a nephew Tyler. From his earliest days, I – his auntie – called him “Pumpkin”. And, no, he wasn’t red-haired. And he was only a bit chubbier than his peers as a baby, certainly not as rotund as some. But for some reason, this lowly word, this word designating a rather inconspicuous vegetable for most of the year, became my rather unorthodox endearment for him. And as he grew, he continued to be my pumpkin. He was my pumpkin during the early years when he lived in Scotland and I visited infrequently. He was my pumpkin when his mother left his father and returned to the U.S. He was my pumpkin as he started the crazy life as an elementary-school student.

Now, when my nephew was nine years old, I had a son. Upon my nephew’s first visit, not realizing what I was doing, I called my son “Pumpkin” in the presence of my nephew. Now you can’t imagine how indignant a nine-year-old can be at realizing that his pet name has been applied to another, lesser being, even if it is his new cousin. My nephew – with all his full height – faced me and said, “He can’t be your pumpkin because I’m your pumpkin!”

And this led to a conversation about love and caring, that I would always love him…he was – after all – my first pumpkin. But that there was enough love in that one endearment to have it for him, for my son, and maybe even for another person or two. When my daughter came along a few years later, my nephew didn’t even bat an eye at her being affectionately called “Pumpkin”. If my memory serves me, he himself might have even slipped and called her “Pumpkin” a time or two.

And the power of the endearment doesn’t go away just because we age, because we get a few gray hairs. As a newly divorced 44-year-old attempting to negotiate the daunting world of dating in midlife, I savor the wonderful power of a simply typed word in an email from a man I was dating. He started off the email with Darling, rather than my given name. Darling, he wrote. Darling was all I had to hear. Darling, an endearment that I’m sure someone must have said to me in my past, ‘though I can’t remember so.

And so we – with great affection – use those powerful words of endearment: pumpkin, darling, love, pookey, beloved, girley, sweetheart, and the myriad other unique terms of affection and more standard endearments. And through these small words, we know we are loved. We know we are part of a bond of affection.

I believe in the power of words…written, spoken, whispered, and especially in the power of the endearment.