There are times when I have known with certainty what love is. Times when it has pounded down the door and stood before me solid and unapologetic. Other times when it has been there in the softer, smaller things.
Gestures, a good sentence, leaves.
With my children it was not giving birth to them. That’s something different. The astounding feeling of having just birthed a baby is primal and ferocious and exciting. It is many things at once, and when those things have cleared and you are left alone with this new person who you are surprised you don’t recognise, sometime in the hours that follow you feel that first pang of love, of belonging to one another in simple, complicated ways.
But the love that comes from knowing them is the kind of everyday love that has weight. It’s hearing Ava tell Ezra she loves him. It’s the small kisses she gives his tiny clenched fist whilst he sleeps and the smile that flickers on his face, dream-deep, happy to be next to her.
I didn’t expect this love. I didn’t expect them to be so adoring of each other. He searches rooms for her until he sees her and then he smiles (and when Ezra smiles it is with his whole body – joy shimmers up his little frame and lifts his hands to his mouth). She worries about him, fusses over him, covers him with blankets in bed, scolds Howard for flying his helicopter too close to Ezra’s head.
She flails around, bounces down the stairs just to make him chortle. He is her biggest fan. He laughs everytime. In the car she holds her hand up to shield his eyes from the sunlight. She brings an extra car toy for Ezra, without being asked.
This is the most love I can imagine. I can barely hold it in place, it’s so big and it’s not even, really, mine.
I email Howard during the day to tell him that Russian Blue cats might not be allergy inducing and we should look into it. When he phones at lunch he asks if we’d been having a conversation about getting a cat that he’d forgotten. No, I tell him.
By this point he’s not at all surprised when I let him into a conversation I’ve been having with just myself. He’s used to my flitting train of thought. And there’s something comforting about being with people who know you in ways that don’t need elaboration.
When people get so used to each other that they make it into the inside. To the place where thoughts and feelings stem from, so that whatever you think, whatever you feel is always and in some way about them too.
This is the place where real love exists. The lingering love that persists long after those you have loved have gone. The place you return to again and again, because it brings with it a feeling of being known, of closeness. Home.