Dear Grey Grey,
Not long after school started I asked about the new friends you’d made — if you liked anyone in particular — and it became clear that you were especially charmed by a girl with the most beautiful name. Emma Lucia. I’ve always pegged you as a romeo who’d grow up to love deeply and soulfully — you already do in so many ways — but I didn’t know how much your affections would blossom over the past few months for a girl who in your eyes is special beyond words.
I took a snapshot of Emma’s classroom photo and printed you a copy at home, not thinking much of it other than you’d probably like to have it. I had no idea you would carry it around with you everywhere — propping it up at the table so you could look at her during meal time; wedging it in the sofa while you played with Cash; placing it on your pillow at night after you’d looked at it long enough to get sleepy.
Now each day is a day you get to see Emma and your silver linings always involve her: “Maybe I’ll be line leaders with Emma today Mommy — or partners!” On those days you’ll say your dream came true! But if you aren’t line leaders or partnered together, it doesn’t matter — you still might sit next to her on the rug; if you’re tired one morning or the weather is dreary, it’s okay — ‘cause you still get to see her. She is, quite literally, your bright side.
In the mornings: “Guess what I’m thinking about right now Mommy? … Emma!” And in the evenings: “You know what I thought about ALL DAY Mommy? … Emma!” To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this love explosion; I didn’t know a five year-old could experience a crush this big. What I did know was that it was important not to stifle your feelings but to validate them; to document them as best I could, knowing one day you might enjoy looking back on this time in your life.
With Cash’s help you created drawings that soon evolved into a series of fantastical stories of good vs. evil with you and Emma as the main characters. You decided to give her a Christmas present: A brown bag decorated with her name and a red heart to hold some of your drawings, a Princess Peach figure and a beaded bracelet.
“Mommy, do you think Emma will like me when she gets her present?”
“Sweetheart,” I said, “she already does.”
The night before assembly you were up late coughing and started crying. Not because of your cough, but because you were afraid of getting sick and not being able to give Emma her present the next day. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, however she ended up leaving her gift in her cubby at the end of the day and sheer panic was in your eyes when you told me. Paulo, being one of the best teachers in the world, felt your broken heart and immediately called Emma’s dad to see if they could come back. When they did, Emma’s dad said, “Dale un abrazo a Grey” (translation: Give Grey a hug), and you stood shell-shocked, like a statue — totally overcome as she thanked you with an embrace. It was hysterical; it was also adorable.
A playdate with Emma was what you asked for for Christmas. It happened over winter break and the anticipation was almost too much for you to bear. You did push-ups and antsy-pants dances prior to her arrival and then hid behind your bedroom curtain when she entered our apartment. We frosted cookies and afterwards her mom read some of the “Emma and Grey” stories aloud as you guys sat on your bottom bunk. Later you’d tell me that was your favorite part of the playdate; as soon as she left: “Ohh … I wish Emma was still here.”
Since then, you’ve continued to express, in various ways, how much she means to you; writing songs for her with your guitar (asking if you could go in our room for privacy); waiting in the living room at school while she put on her coat so we could (casually) walk out at the same time. One day while driving home from school you spotted Emma and her mother walking: “Daddy!! Hurry! Roll down the window!” The four of us called out to her; and as she was jumping up and down, waving back and shouting, “Hiiiii Greyyyy!!!”, I turned around to see you in the backseat, grinning from ear to ear. It was the best part of your day you said.
To understand the human heart is a complicated matter to say the least. But seeing how you express your feelings, so genuinely innocent — with a heart untainted, untarnished, and unselfish — makes me only want to protect it.
“So what makes Emma so special to you Grey?” I asked.
“Because she’s beautiful and I love her so much…(pause)…I just can’t speak it.”
There are no words to describe how and why you feel the way you do; you just know that you love her which is more than enough. And so, sweet boy, I pray you always find beauty in the world; that you continue to love others without embarrassment or shame, forever seeking the many ways you can express it should you find you’re unable to speak it.
I love you Grey Grey.
Always and forever.