Little Love

I wear jewelry for Oliver, knowing he may rip the strands out of my ears, may snap the dainty chains in half. I wear it anyway, to watch his eyes sparkle when he sees it move.

Nic lets me leave things around. Things that don’t make sense, but make me smile. A cluster of dog hair I pulled off a dog we were babysitting. I like returning to it; musing over its length and texture. It is longer and thicker than the hair on my head, it’s color deeper and more intense.

Nic’s putting his miserly tendencies on hold. “You’re right; that is a cute stuffed dog,” he says — and then instead of putting it right back where we found it, it goes for a ride in the cart, and then a ride in the car. Until it’s home, with its new little boy.

I make Béla shelves. Every time she repositions, she moves her head from left to right, seeking a bridge for her neck. I grab whatever material I find nearby — a sweatshirt, cloth sack, baby blanket or onesie — and swoop in, scrunching it under her muzzle. She moves one last time, in gratitude, juts her chin out, and settles.

Nic hates matching his gait to hers. He says she slows him down and she sniffs too much, and really – kind of ruins the run. But he will call her name, while he’s leaned over his shoes, tying them, and she will come to him, and she will know. We are going out there together.

For Nic, I hold my tongue. I offer my hand when it is already comfortably resting with me. I look up at him, when I become aware I’m looking down. When I am just dying to tell him about a dog I saw, or a really great thought I had, I sit across from him and listen instead.

We rise two thirds of a second before the other does, so that the other can keep their eyes closed a little longer. We take turns, checking in on the bird, living outside our back door. ‘Is he there?’ ‘Is he okay?’ We team up on disgusting tasks, like changing a real whopper of a diaper. ‘Baby wipe?’ ‘Check.’ ‘Warm towel?’ ‘Check.’ ‘Desitin?’ ‘Check.’ A two-man pit crew, we are.

Big love is built on little love, and little love is built in tiny moments and actions, ones that seem so inconsequential, like ants’ work.

Sometimes ants build little ant hills and homes in the front of your yard. Sometimes, a slightly bigger one in the back. And sometimes, they build and build and build and build — and the end result is a super colony. A web of work and love that spans a whopping 6,000 kilometers.

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