“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The best any of us can do is sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker.
I included the above quote on my wedding program and it remains today as it was then, my favorite quote by my favorite author. Tom is in his eighties now and he recently published a collection of stories verging on memoir called Tibetan Peach Pie. One of the first stories is about his first love, a young circus girl with long blonde hair and a pet snake. This vision made me think of my darling Eva who although merely three years old, has loved all reptiles and amphibians since before she could walk. Eva especially likes toads and we spend many mornings looking for them in my uncle’s pond, and this, years before she will contemplate kissing any, for as Tom Robbins wrote, “Prince Charming really is a toad.” But Miss Eva, as soon as she could speak would look at her mother and look back at the toad and say with all the sincerity of a nun, “I LOVE him.”
I imagine moments in the future when Eva confides in me that she has a crush on something other than an amphibian, or that she is nursing a broken heart or a disappointment in love, these moments are probably fairly certain. I look forward to enjoying her happiness when she finds the right boyfriend at the right time, a wedding, a grandchild. Of course I am just as certain that all of this is in her future. What I didn’t anticipate is that Eva’s love life would begin at age three.
You can pity my maternal stupor when I unzipped Eva’s school bag the other day during my evening routine and discovered a love note from a boy. It was a Valentine in January. It said “Eva, I love you,” and had a snowman emblazoned with his name, love, Rogan. It took me a moment to realize that I was holding Eva’s first Valentine.
“Eva, who is this from?”
“Rogan.” She answered as if I was asking her what color the sky was.
“What does it say Eva?”
“Rogan loves Eva.”
I gasp and hold the note close to my chest, I then scan it into my computer for posterity, consider frames and then decide to tape it to the fridge door, as if she had just won a blue ribbon in an art competition, or baked the best brownies at the Agricultural show or made the Dean’s list.
“Eva, this is amazing.”
I couldn’t wait, so I called her father at work, “Eva got her first love note, I found it in her backpack.”
“Who is it from?”
“Rogan? I thought she liked Caelan?”
“Eva likes older men, like her mother.”
“How old is Rogan?”
The next morning when I drove her to school I could barely keep my eyes on the road my heart was singing, and I kept thinking about the love note picturing Eva and Rogan remincing in the married bliss of old age about being childhood sweethearts. Rogan’s mother and I picking out china patterns, deciding where we will throw the wedding and fighting over who will get to babysit the next generation. I hit the curb and veered back into my lane and present time.
When I dropped Eva at school, I asked Auntie Zoe,
“Did Rogan give anyone else a love note, or just Eva?”
After daydreaming, my cynical been around the block protective mothering wisdom began to question the note’s authenticity.
“Did anyone put him up to it?”
“No Rogan did it of his own accord and Eva was the only one he made one for.”
My heart soared, but realistically I also knew that Eva was the only girl at her nursery school so she may hold a place of high esteem that may not translate to the wider world of preschool.
Zoe continued, “Rogan is a very loving boy, he makes these for his parents and his brother, but this is the first love note he has made for anyone else, the first one for a girl.”
My heart skipped a beat. I was the mother of a prom queen, the most popular girl at school. When I got to my office the first thing I did was email Rogan’s mother to discuss the love note.
“Did Rogan say anything to you about the love note he made for Eva?”
“Yes, it appeared in her bag yesterday and he didn’t make one for anyone else, I checked with Zoe.”
Our giddy excitement of motherhood blew the entire incident up into a full scale relationship, a relationship Rogan and Eva didn’t seem to notice, as their “love” had more to do with playing on the climbing frame, stamping and painting than it had to do with spending their lives together. This fact would be brought painfully home to me that afternoon.
When I arrived at nursery to pick Eva up, Rogan was still there.
“Hi Rogan, thank you for the nice note you gave Eva.”
“You are welcome,” he said barely looking up from the ground.
I was expecting more excitement, more pandering, I was after all his future mother in law.
When Eva and I walked to the car, my heart was still singing, my mind planning out her romantic future. When we got home I began the evening ritual of emptying her school bag, removing and cleaning her lunchbox, and reading her school report book, when something I read stopped me dead in my tracks and took my breath away.
“Rogan called Eva a bad girl and made her cry.”
It was just forty-eight hours since Rogan had crafted his masterpiece Valentine professing his undying love for Eva.
“My god! That was short lived.“
I contemplated calling his mother, but it felt too radical. Maybe it was just a lover’s spat. I was thrown from the ecstasies of love to the depths of despair. How fickle are little boys hearts! I sat Eva down to discuss this terrible development.
“Eva what happened at school today?”
“Eva sweet heart, you can tell me what happened.”
“What happened with Rogan?”
“He was mean to me.”
“Its okay darling, boys can be mean to girls sometimes.” And fickle and heartless I thought.
“Mommy can I have another beet.”
“Yes Eva.” I handed her a beet.
“Eva, do you still love Rogan?”
“YUCK, No Mommy I don’t love Rogan, I love Caelan.”
Caelan is Rogan’s little brother.
I underestimated Eva. I guess she knows more than me and I should butt out and not be so easily swayed into an outright fantasy by a five year old’s love note. At some point when they are married for too many years, boys stop writing love notes, so I am going to keep this one for Eva to remind her of the good old years when she was popular and spoilt for choice — at least among brothers. Her life might be shaping up like a Mills and Boon love story, a beautiful woman torn between two brothers, but there I go again dramatizing. I am sure there will be room in every story line for an interfering mother/mother in law. I should know my own mother still calls my sister’s teenage boyfriend “Remora” when she sees him. “Remora” is a nickname she bestowed on him after finding numerous hickies on my sister’s neck, an affectionate moniker after the fish, whose head has a sucker for adhering itself to the belly of a shark. My sister is the shark of course. Eva should be forewarned that she will never live down what she does as a teenager or a Threenager for that matter.