When I was in high school, my parents gave me Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. That book of poetry kept this skinny sixteen-year old up nights. “How do I love thee?” Elizabeth wrote, “ Let me count the ways….” And then, in forty-four sonnets, she lists the ways expressively and romantically. About the same time, a boy gave me The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. More poetry than one teenager could handle. And then there was The White Cliffs by Alice Duer Miller. I cried buckets each time I read it. “So I put my gloved hand into his glove and we danced together and fell in love…Young and in love, how magical the phrase.” I was sure I knew all about it. And then I met a tall dark young man and he swept me off my feet.
I soon learned there were many ways to express those feelings, not as poetic perhaps, but where the “I love you” rings loud and clear. My husband was gifted in that department. And my children and grandchildren are constantly surprising me.
My parents never told me they loved me. I was very clear they did—adored both my sister and me. My father saved those three special words for our mother. He would raise his glass of wine, wink, and say, “I’ve known many women, kissed a few, loved but one, here’s to you.”
My friend Vito told me this story of his Italian immigrant parents. Every evening, after dinner, his mother made a tiny cup of espresso for his father. Carefully, she placed it before him and then sat beside him. He always added half a teaspoon of sugar and slowly stirred it in. As he sipped, they gossiped about the day. He always drank only half a cup. Then he slid it over to her, and she drank the rest.
Vito said that after his father died, his mother never made or drank espresso again.