“Mommy, who do you love most in the world?” my son used to ask, searching for security, for something sure to hold onto.
How does a person answer such question? A mother especially?
I used to try to avoid the question, to head it off at the pass before it had even fully slipped through his lips.
But there were times I didn’t catch it, and those times I would struggle with an attempt at an answer.
“Love is love, it doesn’t really come in degrees.”
Or, “We feel love for each person differently.”
Or, “There are different kinds of love.”
A mother has a connection to her child that is different from anything else, but that works two ways; a child has a special connection to its mother.
And what of families with more than one child? Though I am an only child, and my son too, I have difficulty imagining that parents actually love one child more than another. Identify more with one maybe, but actually loving one more than another? I think probably not, in most cases.
And a partner has a special relationship with a person, too. They know you better, or certain sides of you, than anyone else. They can be your rock, your friend, your lover. That, too, is a completely different type of love.
And that was how I finally came up with the right answer. Well, maybe not right. There really isn’t a right answer. But the answer that was good enough to stop my son from asking the question.
“I love everyone differently. You are very special to me, because you are my son. But Grandma is special to me because she is my mother. And just as I can’t say I love one of you more than the other, I also can’t say I love my husband more or less. I love you all very much, and I love you all very differently.”
I was patient with the question because it came from a small boy who had seen a lot of changes in his family, who had watched it rip apart, and then grow back again, in a different way. It’s a natural question for any child to ask, never mind one who is searching for reassurance and stability. It is part of how they learn about their world and the people in it.
But it made me uncomfortable. And it still does.
My family – my husband and son and my mother – are the most important people in my life but beyond that, I can’t choose. Nor should I.
Life is better, the colours are brighter, my smile more sure when these people are there.
I could expand the circle to include those friends, too, who have followed me through the ups and downs, from one shore to another, from one continent to another. They have given me something, a consistency, an unspoken understanding, a link to all the different “me’s” I have been.
I know I could survive on my own if I had to. I have done so before, maybe not gracefully, but I have done so. I can be quite introverted and happy to spend days on end alone, with just books and music and my thoughts.
But that is because I know that somewhere out there, these important people are still there, that I can reach out and touch them. That they are in my life, if not always in my vicinity.
I cherish them because they are who they are.
They are a part of me, and I am a part of them. There is an undefinable connection between us that words cannot quite capture.
I cherish them and they are important to me simply because they are.