I will never forget this moment for as long as I live. But I took a picture anyway, just in case I forget the details: what I looked like, what he looked like, what love personified looks like.

Every day at nap time and every night when I tuck this beautiful three-year-old into bed, I pat his back or touch his head and say, “Goodnight, sweet boy. I love you.” And the silence afterwards has been deafening. There’s a soul-deep longing that’s been hanging over my head like a balloon tied to my heart; a wish that maybe someday, somehow he’d say “I love you” back.

But for that to happen, I’ve reminded myself time and time again, he’d need to know not only HOW to say the words but also what they mean. It’s not something I’ve said aloud to his four developmental therapists. They work with him on important things – like learning basic words or how to use a spoon or how to stop when we say stop. Things we instinctively know and take for granted – like how to respond when a person asks “how are you?” or “how old are you now?” He can’t come up with those answers yet. Doesn’t even understand the questions.

So how could I expect him to understand how much I love him or to repeat those three gigantic words – i love you – back to me? I’ve held that wish so close, afraid to even say it out loud for fear it might never be granted. I remember standing over his crib a few months ago, watching him fall asleep, thinking about how the rest of us toss those words – i love you – into the air so carelessly. Brad and I end most phone conversations with i love you – but the words come so easily and casually, that we don’t always feel the impact. We don’t  inhale the meaning of the words as we say them and receive them. 

As I stood over Tru’s crib that day, I thought: if you ever say those words to me, it will be our little miracle. It would be the sign this mama needed to know for sure that, apart from those wonderful therapists with their laminated signs and magnetic puzzles, I can teach him the most important stuff – the love stuff.

And that is why I’m weeping as I type these words today: he did it. On Saturday, as Tru climbed into my lap for a snuggle, I asked him for a kiss. He knows what that means now, so he puckered his lips and planted a sloppy, wet kiss right on mine. Heaven. And then he said it – out of the blue, without my even saying it first:

“I love you, Mama.” 

It sounded like “I wub-ooh, mama” and it was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard in my whole damn life. I shrieked, he beamed {he knew what he’d just done! he knew what it meant!} and we hugged a big bear hug. And then I snapped this picture of us – head over heels in love.

“Love recognized no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, 
penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
~ Maya Angelou