heart-shaped eyes

At my son’s elementary school, they cut sheets of tissue paper into pieces. Brandon, glad to have me in this part of his life we don’t usually share, holds heart-patterned tissue paper over his eyes, looks at me like an emoji.

I have brought an apple at Brandon’s request and I pull it from my purse. He bashfully walks up to his teacher, hands it to her. She takes it, smiling. Brandon has perpetuated a long tradition, eschewing gift cards and sugar confections.

While they play Bingo, a boy next to Brandon says, “I’m so lucky” after each animal is called, but isn’t the first to get a Bingo.

I look at Brandon, dressed in his new pants he picked out at the mall yesterday and a red Piakchu shirt he frantically changed into this morning when he realized today was his Valentine party. Pikachu is wearing a Santa hat but even still, Brandon has deemed it appropriate for this holiday, red being the color of love, red being his favorite color.

When he entered school this morning, he stopped at the Candygram table, plunked down his fourteen quarters and asked for seven Candygrams. The secretary had to find more forms. Maybe seven is an abnormally large request. But Brandon has an abnormally large heart, loving deeply and sincerely.

To get to watch him like this today made me love him something like anew, although it isn’t anew exactly. I mean I love him every day, in a similar way as before, but today it was more precise, more articulate. Today I saw him in a way I don’t usually and I thought, this is what he is like all the time, even when I’m not around: kind and attentive and tender.

I know that I’ve hit the mom jackpot. While I’m writing this, he comes into my office and says, “come look at Holds, how cute he is.” I follow him into their bedroom where Holden is open-mouthed asleep, cocooned in blankets. Brandon is coloring quietly on the floor, a movie in the background. I’m waiting for him to go to sleep so I can put out his Valentine presents.

I have tried to tell him in a card what he means to me but it is flimsy and incomplete. I don’t know how to let my children know that they make me better, make my life something to take seriously. I don’t know how to tell them they gave me this bravery I only found after they became mine. I don’t know how to explain that the way they love changed the way I love. I don’t know how to say all the things to them I want them to know, but I will die trying.

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