Love Is

love-is-a-better-teacherYears ago I remember talking to a friend of mine who was newly pregnant and worried. She said she didn’t really like kids, and was afraid she wasn’t going to like her own. My son was about one at that time, and she asked me if I was grossed out when I had to change his diapers. It made me laugh. I asked her if she was grossed out when she went to the bathroom. “Are you like, ‘Eeew! That’s so disgusting, I can’t believe I did that!’?” She looked at me like I was crazy, but I told her it was kind of like that. Anyway, I was thinking about that conversation, because my daughter has had a nasty stomach virus for the last day, and the poor thing is having projectile vomit every few hours. I’ve spent a lot of time on my hands and knees cleaning walls and floors. I’ll leave it at that, but never once have I been grossed out. And, by the way, my friend who didn’t like kids couldn’t be more in love with her own.

When we’re really loving someone, we’re celebrating them. We’re seeing them for who they are and saying yes. Sometimes it means we kindly hold up a mirror if they aren’t showing up for themselves, or us, or other people, in the best way they can. Sometimes it means we have painful, challenging conversations even if we’re scared, and sometimes it means we’re boiling stuffed plush cats in Rit dye on Christmas Eve. Stay with me, here. My daughter woke me up Christmas Eve morning and told me she hoped Santa was bringing her “Crookshanks”. This, after I’d been asking her for weeks what she wanted, and she hadn’t had many ideas. (It’s not because she already has everything, it’s because she doesn’t watch commercials ;)). Anyway, even though I thought I was done getting gifts, I felt I’d better take on the quest of finding Crookshanks, who, if you don’t know, is the cat belonging to Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series, which I read with my son this past fall. My daughter fell in love with the story, too. Anyway, Crookshanks isn’t some ordinary-looking cat. He’s kind of got a “squashed” face, sometimes called a “pansy face.” Apparently, he’s a ginger Persian cat.

So I called a store in Hollywood that carries tons of Harry Potter paraphernalia, but couldn’t get anyone on the phone. I drove up there, only to find out that Crookshanks could only be purchased at “Wizarding World” in Florida. I made the mistake of asking the woman helping me, “Who would fly to Florida for a stuffed animal?!” You can guess who, right? So after I took my foot out of my mouth, I walked to a store she had recommended that sold lots of plush toys. She thought I might find a decent match, or at least some kind of cat I could pass off as Crookshanks. When I got there, I pored over shelves and shelves of stuffed plush cats, and finally found a weird, smushed-face white one. But Crookshanks is ginger, so I called JoAnn’s, a fabric store in Santa Monica to see if they carried Rit dye, which I knew about thanks to an ex-boyfriend of mine who used to randomly decide to dye a t-shirt or pair of shorts a totally different color whenever he felt like it. Everything you know comes in handy, eventually.

Sure enough, they had it, so off I went with this cat to continue my quest. Back to Santa Monica, directly into JoAnn’s, which was like a ghost town. I found a color I hoped was a close approximation of ginger, and went home leaving all these items in my car until after my kids were asleep. At about 10pm, I went to my car to get the cat and the dye, pulled out a huge pot, and opened the directions. And this is how I found myself, boiling a stuffed cat in orange dye on Christmas Eve. You have to stir continuously for thirty minutes. Then you wring it out and throw it in the dryer. I have to tell you, by the time I was done it was midnight, but that cat looked like Crookshanks, and I wrapped it and put it under the tree, and when my daughter opened it the next morning, her face lit up and she squealed, “Crookshanks!!” She’s been carrying him around ever since. She’s curled up with him right now, all sweaty and feverish. Anyway, my point is, I think that’s love.

If you’re really loving someone, you’ll want for them what they want for themselves, even if it isn’t convenient for you. In fact, you’ll want it for them even if it breaks your heart. Sometimes a person wants to leave us because that’s what they need for their own growth. That’s not easy, but that’s part of the risk you take when you enter a relationship with someone. Open hands, open eyes, open mind, open heart. The paths don’t always converge, and sometimes your job is to let someone go; sometimes that’s what love looks like.

If you’re really loving someone, you’ll go the extra mile without thinking twice about it. I think a lot of people confuse love with ownership. You can never own another human being. “I love you” does not have a secret part at the end that goes, “when you do what I want you to do, or when you want what I want you to want.” You either love someone, or you do not. You accept a person, as they are right now, and not as you think they should be, or you do not. Love is not conditional. It’s confrontational and challenging, and loving people makes us very vulnerable, so it takes courage. You could be hurt, that’s reality, but love doesn’t cling and control and demand. It doesn’t weigh you down, it lifts you up. Love makes you want to listen with your heart and not your ego. It inspires you to look at places within yourself that are still in need of healing. It asks you to be honest and naked and there, with all your beauty and all your flaws. Love is an embrace, it’s not a stranglehold. Love is cleaning up walls and floors and boiling stuffed plush cats sometimes. Love makes you do things you’d never imagine you’d be motivated to do.

When we really love someone, we give them full freedom to be themselves. We don’t want to hear what we want to hear, we want to know what is really true in their heart of hearts. We want to be our best selves. Everyone deserves to have someone who will go on a quest for their Crookshanks, y’know? I think the best way to learn how to do that for someone else, is to do it for yourself, first.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

4 thoughts on “Love Is”

  1. Wow. Out of the ball park with this one, Ally. Sometimes love is letting go, and sometimes it’s chasing Crookshanks. Among other things, this made me smile when I thought of the Christmas Eve quests and late-night surprise-wrapping ventures I’ve exhausted myself with to see that kind of delight on the faces of my sweet sons. Best present ever.

  2. I love this!
    I remember having to make a huge bushy tail to turn a fox costume into a squirrel costume for my nephew’s school play.
    This involved two scarlet feather boas, buckets, bleach, brown dye, orange dye, lots of steeping, miles of wire and a house that still churned out the occasional rusty feather even after 4 years!
    That squirrel outfit has been passed down the family. Kids who visit my mum always want to try it on.
    The original squirrel will celebrate his 18th birthday in a few weeks and I’d still do anything for him.
    Clara xx

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