HOW DO I LOVE THEE?

The words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning have resonated with me from the first time I read it in an English class at Berriman Junior High School, perhaps eighth grade? Not really sure.

Grandma and Zayda

Love, such a loaded word the Oxford Dictionary defines as both a noun and a verb.

Noun: an intense feeling of deep affection, or a great interest or pleasure in something such as:  “babies fill parents with feelings of love,” or “a great interest and pleasure in something.”

Verb: feel deep affection for (someone) such as “he loved his sister dearly;” or like or enjoy very much in “I just love dancing.”

This blog is not meant as an English lesson, nor a critical analysis of a beloved sonnet. It is a response to a remark a friend shared recently in a conversation where we talked about parental love: “We love our children even though they may not always like the way we love them.”

BINGO!

For years I’ve apologetically said to my children, “I/we did the best we could,” in order to reconcile perceptions and differences in the way they were brought up or to justify actions that may have been disagreeable or unpleasant.

Relationships and parent models in my own life emerged from living in a three generation household where my loud, domineering grandfather lorded over everyone, so much so, that my father dubbed him “Chief.” Despite this attitude, my diminutive grandmother often pointed a finger at him and said in her squeaky voice, “Shloime, du bist a naar/Shlomo, you are a fool.” 

Late at night the sounds of shouting, my mother arguing with her mother, or my parents disagreeing, reverberated into my back bedroom. I pulled the covers over my head to drown out the noise. My feisty mother, the fifth of seven children, with four older brothers, knew how to make her voice heard and for people to take notice.

It never occurred to me to act any other way than shout orders to my children or scream out of frustration, especially raising a family in isolation, three thousand miles away from a nuclear buffer of supportive relatives. I was lucky. I married a man, mild tempered, who loved me unconditionally, despite my untamed wild roots. In our fifty plus years together, he never raised his voice to me or the children. The only time he shouted was as a referee at soccer games in order to be heard on the other side of the field.

It took ages for me to calm down. As we settled into our ‘sage’ years together without the responsibility of a busy, frantic household, we rarely argued and if we did, it was definitely not a shouting match.

Unfortunately I cannot take back the memories of my children’s childhood, where I ordered everyone around and often spouted words thoughtlessly, primarily due to my own frustration. Yet, now as I see them as adults, living their own lives I say a prayer every day that they didn’t inherit my untamed indiscriminate behavior and adapted to the quieter model among us. The best of what we tried to do is beyond better than I could have imagined.

I say to them, “No matter what, I love you, even though you do not always like the way I love you.” It ain’t the same way I love eating or singing off key…it is more the noun or better yet, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning said:

“…with depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…by sun and candle-light…”

8 Comments

  1. Minnie and Shloime at Aunt Hilda’s wedding, December 1, 1945 and the kids at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, 1982…thanks Barb. You are my number 1 fan.

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  2. Thank you for this. What a beautiful message and it certainly fits in with my life and unfortunately was inherited by one of mine. Shelley

    >

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  3. I remember that family! I’m off tomorrow to see most of my family that I haven’t seen in 1 1/2 or 2 years.

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  4. Beautifully said.

    Muriel

    On Wed, May 12, 2021 at 4:47 PM Janice’s Jottings wrote:

    > Janice Alper posted: ” The words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning have > resonated with me from the first time I read it in an English class at > Berriman Junior High School, perhaps eighth grade? Not really sure. Grandma > and Zayda Love, such a loaded word the Oxford Dict” >

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  5. Love Love Love Love Love Love Love this. It rings so true, shows such wisdom and vulnerability. We all make mistakes. The wise among us reflect and grow because of them. Forgiveness is part of love. xoxo These photos are wonderful as well.

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  6. Yes. Love! All the ways it takes to find its way into our hearts. And the photos. These are wonderful. Thanks, Janice.

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