As soon as my son Evan could write all the letters in the alphabet, he asked: "How do you spell 'I love you?' " Later, he constructed paper mailbox pouches and taped them onto the bedroom doors. "MoMMyS mailbox," mine said. Sometimes he'd run into the living room with a pleased grin and ask: "Have you looked in your mailbox?"
Delivery was sporadic. Some days nothing appeared in my pouch; other days, there were three batches in a single afternoon.
At some point, the mailboxes disappeared, but for the past couple of years I've received hand-delivered "I love you" messages from him in pencil on brown construction paper, purple marker on yellowed onionskin, and crayon scrawled on the back of my grocery list.
When Evan began to take showers in the morning, he even wrote love notes with his finger on the steamy bathroom mirror.
Eventually, the notes lengthened. "Mommy I Love you will you Please Take us to Toy Go Round?"
After a family meeting one evening to remind the boys, yet again, that bathroom talk was not allowed at the dinner table, I yelled in frustration, "I just want a peaceful dinner!" Ten minutes later, a note appeared on my
pillow: "I'll try to be better next time MoMMy. I'm sorry you felt bad. I love you. from Evan."
One evening, during a battle over piano practicing, Evan said something that made me burst into tears and walk out of the room. He had grown accustomed to my yelling when I'm angry, but tears were rare, and he knew he'd hurt me deeply. Five minutes later, he hand-delivered a note written in pencil on a piece of clean computer paper, folded into quarters. His scrunched-up face revealed remorse, trepidation, and worry all mixed together. I opened the note, not knowing what to expect.
"I am Sorry That I said I Need a New mother. I Love you." My sadness slipped away, and in its place, I felt a rush of love and gratitude. I chuckled and pulled him into an embrace.
Recently, I received one more note, which I will save forever. It is my badge of being a good mother, and I'll keep it for all the times when I act like a rotten one.
Completely unexpectedly one night, while I was listening to his younger brother read to me on the couch, Evan slipped me another message. This one was written on a torn corner of construction paper. While listening to "Hop on Pop," I unfolded it and snuck a peek.
"I Love you MoMMy. you'r tite, cool and you rock. from Evan."