Someone to Hold On To
When did you first understand the meaning of love? For Life Lessons Essay Contest winner Mara Eve Robbins, that moment came unexpectedly, overwhelmingly, when one small gesture helped her cope with an enormous loss.
My chest tightened, and for a moment I thought I was having an anxiety attack. They had visited me often in the last few months,
and I did not know yet how to identify their beginnings. You knew, somehow. Your hand moved from your hair and settled on
The love built up from my chest and spread through my body, fierce and pure and encompassing. I gripped your hand—not to wake you, just to hang on to the feeling as long as possible.
Your dad and I used to talk about love as something bigger than a mere emotion. “It is a state of being,” he used to say, and though I agreed, I did not really know what he meant, or even what I meant the times I repeated the thought. Suddenly, that changed. I looked at you for a long time, holding your hand, watching you sleep. My love for you overcame me—a feeling that had become unfamiliar. I had not been able to feel love, not for months. I loved you. I knew that, intrinsically. I just did not have the capacity to experience it for a while.
I met your dad when I was eight. He was 10. We were childhood friends, and lovers in our late teens. We lived together for nine years and got married on Leap Day a year before I got pregnant with you. I had very few memories of life without him. My mind did not know how to absorb these abrupt changes. And so I stopped feeling anything but the void I carried in my belly at all times, which was unrelenting.
A few weeks after that revelatory night, you woke up in the middle of the night wailing. With your hand on your chest, you asked me, with halting, sobbing breaths, for a Band-Aid. I held you on my lap and looked—there was no bruise, no cut that I could see.
“How did you hurt yourself, sweetheart?” I moved my hand in gentle circles over your collarbone, your shoulder, your chest.
“My heart hurts, Mom. I need a Band-Aid.” Burying your head in the crook of my arm, you repeated it more softly: “I need a Band-Aid.”