Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.
Prompt #5: Do you remember your first romantic thoughts? How old were you? Who was your first crush? It’s the month of love so fill us in on how you created a concept, an idea of love and relationships.
1987. Dirty Dancing. Patrick Swayze. I was all of six. I saw Baby and saw my future self – spirited daddy’s little girl forbidden from dating the bad boy. Naive, eager to help people and a passion for the dance floor. The movie delineates the line between the time I had zero concept of romantic love and the rest of my life when I’ve been consumed by it. By the way, Dirty Dancing, although it was totally awesome, was also entirely misleading. It planted the notion in me that all men could dance like Johnny. I have since learned this is very much, veryveryvery much not the case. Moving on.
Something about growing up in that era really made a hopeless romantic out of me. Between John Hughes flicks and power ballads did I really stand a chance? Then again maybe every girl who loves love just sees everything through a fatally romantic lens.
My first crush, I’m not sure I knew it was a first crush. I was in kindergarten and he was a grade older. I can’t even remember his name. I just know I thought about him a lot. Such new feelings, I’d never thought about a boy so much before. If my life were a movie, you would have seen me gazing googly eyed out the classroom window with birds and hearts floating around my head.
Despite my boy crazy tendencies, when I got older I didn’t date much. I saw the madness that engulfed so many of my friends when they were in relationships. Breaking up, making up, breaking up. Distrust, insecurity, arguments, jealousy. My love for love did not outweigh my common sense. I knew true love, the through death do us part kind, did not, could not involve the irrational behavior of adolescent love. So I held back. I guarded my heart faithfully.
I had maybe 2 or 3 boyfriends before college, all rather short lived. I dated a lot, though. While most of my girlfriends settled down for years with one guy with visions of walking down the aisle, I was more than happy to date around. I remember watching my girlfriends’ long term relationships and wanting the same for myself. But every time I met a guy, I just couldn’t figure out how the heck I was supposed to spend forever, or at least the next year, with one person. I could never put my finger on it. In retrospect, I believe my instincts shouted to me, “This season is for you!”
Being raised by my mother and my grandfather also greatly contributed to my notion of love. I never got to witness daily acts of romantic love, even the not so romantic, mundane automatic pilot gestures. So I watched the love of others with fascination. I marveled at the ups and downs, at the nonsense. Couple my observations with my obsessive love of books and movies and I was equal parts a helpless and cynical romantic.
Then in college I read Alain de Botton’s On Love which floored me. It’s a philosophical analysis of love tucked into a love story. It’s genius. It gave voice to and elevated my adolescent ruminations on love. Devour it. Your heart, soul and mind will thank you. Here a sampling of what rocked my world.
There is so much to say about love and relationships, my journey in them and understanding them. I could tell stories for days of the people who shaped my heart. I will continue making stories for the rest of my life on love. The truest thing I can say about love up until this moment is what I wish for my daughters in love, that is most telling I believe. So, to my daughters:
Love yourself first, always.
Then, in whatever order you discover,
Love the journey.
Love your life’s work.
Love a person who makes you your best self, with whom you feel alive and on fire.
Love what you know, not what you wish you for. The person you see, the person you meet, the way they love you will not change.
Love a person who challenges you, who does not let you get comfortable.
Love a person who will love your children with every breath.
Love a person who roots you and gives you wings.
Update: After the link up went live, Chelley at A is for Adelaide shared her post & brought me to tears. She wrote about her father and it hit me hard how much my own father figure, my grandfather, shaped my standards for a significant other. He worked full time as a jeweler. He provided for me and mother. He never complained. He took tremendous pride in supporting our little family. He loved me unconditionally. He was never too tired to play with me or take me where I wanted to go. He’d move heaven and earth for me. He was fiercely protective but joyful in witnessing me grow up. He bragged about me to his friends. He celebrated my triumphs and celebrated my efforts when there was no victory. He believed in everything I wanted to do and be. He defined for me what a man should be. He’s my home. And no story about my concept of love is complete without telling you about the person who makes me feel the most loved.
Next week’s prompt: 2/16 What kind of car did your family drive? What played on the radio? Where did you sit? Take us on a road trip.