Saturday, October 11, 2008

(Anachronistic) To the Moon and Back

This is something I wrote some four years ago, intending on submitting it to a small publication that has since gone out of business, Welcome Home. I remembered it because of the recent book of choice by Leo has been Guess How Much I Love You?
The words still ring true.

*The painting at right is from the book; Jeff painted it in Aidan's "Camp Bearwood" themed room....

The first time I read the children's book, Guess How Much I Love You? I was not impressed. Actually, as a college student, I just didn't get it. I didn't like how Little Nutbrown Hare kept trying to find the biggest way to tell Big Nutbrown Hare how much he loves him, but Big Nutbrown Hare always managed to show Little Nutbrown Hare just a little bit bigger way of loving him back - stretching his arms wider, jumping higher, loving him "to the moon - and back." I didn't like how Big Nutbrown Hare always seemed to "out-do" Little Nutbrown Hare; I wanted the love to be equal.

A few years after that first reading, I received the book at a baby shower. I stuck it on the shelf with many other new books, not giving it a second thought. Then, in one of our earliest days home from the hospital, determined that I would read to my newborn son every day of his life, (never mind he could barely keep his eyes open long enough to nurse, let alone read a book!) I began reading Guess How Much I Love You? to him.

Halfway through the book, I had an epiphany, an "ah-ha" moment. A new awareness, a new appreciation of this seemingly simple book overcame me as I tearfully whispered aloud the concluding sentence - "I love you right up to the moon - and back." Suddenly, and with absolute clarity, I got it. No matter what, Little Nutbrown Hare could not possibly love Big Nutbrown Hare to the same degree, and that was okay: it was okay that Little Nutbrown Hare will never be able to love Big Nutbrown quite as much as he is loved back. A parent's love is somehow always bigger than a child's love, and that parental love is utterly astounding.

As I sat there, realizing how powerful and enormous my love is for my son, I was caught in another sudden awareness - my own parents love me this much. I did not realize the extent to which my parents love me until my son was born. Only now, as a parent, do I understand what it means to love some other person with your whole being and soul. I am deeply in love with my husband and fiercely devoted to my family but the love I have for my son is different than these other loves, unconditional in a way that was not developed or learned. It is an innate, instinctual love. I was not able to understand or appreciate that love until becoming a mother. And to think my parents have loved me like this for more than 25 years! Suddenly, I was overcome with these two powerful and awesome gifts I received: the gift of this new life, this new creation, our son. And the gift of finally, truly knowing, and understanding, the depth of the love my parents have for me.

The book quickly became a standard read, the first of many board books whose words are permanently embedded in my memory. After story time, with my son sleeping peacefully in my arms, I gaze at his perfect face, his smooth skin, his beautiful bow lips and tiny body, and I contemplate the distance to the moon. 480,000 miles, to the moon and back, does not even begin to describe the love I have for this sweet soul snuggled into my shoulder. But it’s certainly a start.

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