A Heart Full of Love

While I was home for the holidays, pretending anything fried and delicious was also calorie-less while lounging on anything that would hold me for long periods of time – my pup, Lucy, was doing the same. A funny thing happens when a city dog from the Upper West Side meets the great wilderness that is a fenced-in back yard: freedom.

Lucy had fun playing with my family’s dog, Suzie, and my uncle’s dogs, Lincoln and Cooper. She ran out the doggy door. And back in. And out. And again and again, over and over. She ate whatever she could find, buried her toys in the dirt outside, rolled in the mud – anything and everything that was Southern and grimy – Lucy was game.

So you can imagine that when bedtime rubbed its sleepy eyes, I had one tired little gal that easily and deeply fell asleep. That is, except for her first night. You see – my apartment in New York is rather quiet. My window faces the buildings behind me and I almost always sleep with a fan to drown out the eerie sound of silence that makes my ears ring. Slumber in the city is very quiet, but in North Carolina – you can hear all sorts of sounds. The tree frogs sing their melodies late at night, the birds wake you up before you’re ready, the dogs have conversations from cul-de-sac to cul-de-sac and angry women shoo them to simmer down.

To Lucy – this was a lot to take in.

I spent a good hour trying to convince her to come out from underneath my childhood bed, luring her with treats and the sweetest (irritated) voice I could muster. But this stubborn tiny white dog was having none of it – she had tucked herself into a corner, ready to hide from anything and everything that was apparently out to get her. As I was attempting to wiggle an arm in to grab her, I hit my elbow on a big plastic box, concealed under a blanket that I used to snuggle with when I was four.

Curiosity always getting the best of me, I pulled out this unfamiliar Tupperware, giving up on my runaway pet. I peeled off the top and inside I found something that within minutes, brought me to tears.

Hundreds and hundreds of love letters.

You see – my ultra-romantic father who is even gushier than me (if you can believe it) – has written a note to my mom nearly every morning in the 27 years they’ve been married. I remember stumbling across them as a child: sometimes in front of the coffee pot, sticking out of the corner of her purse, on the dashboard of her car, taped to the side of her vanity where she sat to do her makeup. They didn’t say much, usually just loving sentiments or funny inside jokes that I don’t want to know the meaning of.

I hadn’t realized that my mom had kept every single last one of them. Or that she stowed them away in a sealed container, underneath my bed where I’m assuming she sometimes pulls them out to read again or continuously add to her already very large stockpile. As I sifted through the notes, careful not to rip them and making sure I didn’t read anything super-personal, I thought about what my dad must have been thinking when he penciled these.

Was he just trying to make sure my mom started her day off with something kind-hearted? Did he want to ensure that she always felt loved? That she always knew how treasured and valuable she is to him? Did he feel so much love toward her that he simply couldn’t hold it in anymore? Was his heart bursting with all that he felt from that day he laid eyes on her from across a crowded, smoky dance floor in the 80s?

These are answers that I’ll probably never know and questions I wouldn’t dare to ask – those letters and the meanings behind them are for my parents. And between them. They’re part of their long-winded, strong and compassionate love affair that has continually shown me what it really means to love unconditionally. Every date I go on, every man I think could possibly be someone to me, I compare the guy – intentionally and not – to my dad. Even if this man won’t write me a note every morning before I hop the train to work or make me a cup of coffee to wake up to – would he express his love in a different way I’d appreciate? Would he remember to tell me how he cares – not just on anniversaries and Hallmark holidays but all the time, every single day?

The verdict is still out – but those letters in that box taught me that what I’m really looking for in a man is one who has one hell of a heart. And a heart that’s full of love. Sure, there are other things – like ambition, loyalty, humor, height – that also rate pretty high on the attraction scale –but someone who isn’t afraid of his feelings and knows how to show them. That’s important, too.

And apparently, important to Lucy, as well. Because as soon as she heard me sniffle as I read those pages, she quickly came to my side to comfort my heart. The one that aches for another one… just like it.

The Puppy Love: Mr. Curls

My middle school was broken up into “teams” by grade. For the sixth grade, in honor of the state of North Carolina, we were broken up into different regions, and I was part of the “Mountains” team.

The teams consisted of a social studies, English, math, and science teacher and we rotated between them to get acquainted with the class-change system. I don’t remember much about being on the Mountains team, but I do know that I met one of my very best friends, E…and Mr. Curls.

He was a tall, lanky, and acne-ridden, curly-haired boy who was in my homeroom – and I never really noticed him until we went on an overnight class field trip in October of 2000. The trip was to Camp Greenville and I was excited about sleeping in bunk beds and eating at the “mess hall” (I was also obsessed with the movie It Takes Two at the time, if you’re wondering).

On the first or second night (my seventh grade self would hate me for not knowing the exact details, but I think I’m starting to get old…sigh), we took a hike up to Pretty Place, a chapel that’s open (no walls or ceiling), overlooking the land below, and lit by the houses and highways in the towns before it.

We were all told to sit down, and Mr. Curls happened to sit next to me. Being the 11-year-old charmer he was, he started chatting it up, and big-eyed and easily impressionable-me was flabbergasted. He had a cute smile and when the breeze swept through the outdoor chapel, I tensed, and he squeezed my hand to let me know it was okay.

And with that little nudge, the love obsession began.

Thinking back on it now, I feel like I should mail chocolates or thank you cards to my friends and my family for putting up with me talking about Mr. Curls endlessly. While we met in sixth grade, our actual “relationship” didn’t start until the seventh grade, and my obsession with him didn’t come to a halt until I started high school.

It was the age where every touch, every word, every brush up, or smile meant everything. Where the simplest of actions could make me melt and squeal ridiculously. It was the time when I remember anticipating every glimpse or meeting, and hoping incessantly while listening to Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys (they really did know how to illustrate how I felt, ya know?).

Mr. Curls and I talked on the phone constantly for about a year and danced at sock-hops while our friends surrounded and watched us. Apparently, both sides of the team knew we needed to make it “official”, but Mr. Curls was hesitant for whatever reason (funny how some things don’t change). My parents even bought a longer chord for our phone so I could walk out on the back porch, and wrap myself up in the white curls while dreaming of Mr. Curls’ dark ones. My diaries are filled with images, memories, and reminders of him. And my heart is still filled with some sort of an “Aww! My first little love!” impression.

Finally, after about a year, I pulled a Lindsay-classic move and decided to give Mr. Curls an ultimatum. Now that I’ve “grown into myself” more, it doesn’t seem too much out of my pushing-character, but at the time, it was super difficult for me to do. In a not so subtle way, I got my friend, L, to tell Mr. Curls “40 days.” She wasn’t allowed to say anything else but that, but eventually, I think maybe after a few days, he figured out what it was I meant: ask me out in 40 days or I’m done.

And so, on the phone, I believe on January 30 (yep, I still remember), he asked me to be his girlfriend. After we hung up, I screamed something fierce, to which my parents came running because they thought I was hurt. But no, I was just blissfully “in love” as an 11-year-old seventh grader who just got asked out by her all-time crush.

Over the next three months, we’d walk around the mall, try to (and succeed) get our friends to start dating one another, go to movies, write each other little notes, and he’d always walk me to my “car” at the end of the day. I still have a Valentine’s Day card from him that had a horse on the front and says, “Do you know, you make my heart go woah?” Aww, sweet Mr. Curls.

At some point in April he started becoming distant, and being this obsessive gal, I became extremely worried. So much to the point, that I used my press credentials from the middle school newspaper to pull him out of wood-working class to talk to him. I remember him wih this worried look on his face as he said, “It’s just not working out, Linds.” And I of course started to cry, as I probably would today (just not in front of him), and he tried to hold me as I dramatically ran away.

I called my mom to pick me up early and she took me out for brownie sundaes and we talked. She says it broke her heart just as much as my heart was broken to see me so upset – and she knew it was the start of my long journey with men and with love. She told me I would find another love and it would be better, brighter, and everlasting, and as a devastated pre-teen, I didn’t believe her.

A few years later, after Mr. Curls dated and ended things with someone else, we met at the movie theater and rekindled a little bit – or really, just made out. For a few weeks, I really liked him, and he sent me a birthday card, but then I met Mr. Faithful, and all was lost.

At first, I didn’t think to put Mr. Curls in this journey because I wasn’t sure what part he played in my life. I mean, everyone has a first puppy love and gets their heart broken – but how much does it really affect us? Sure, we always remember, but in the grand scheme, I don’t think of Mr. Curls as one of my great loves or even the guy who introduced me to being in love (that title goes to Mr. Faithful).

So why even have Mr. Curls as part of my recovery?

When I was in the south last, I was going through all of my past writings and I stumbled across an old “article” about Mr. Curls. This boy, in some form or fashion, taught me to learn from my relationships. Sure, I didn’t recognize it at the time, but even then, in what I wrote, I talked about how giving up on love is pointless and taking away lessons from love-gone-wrong is more beneficial then turning bitter.

Mr. Curls may have not had that great of an affect on my life, but I think my experience with him ignited my interest in relationship writing. I’ve definitely improved as a writer since that age, but I realized a common thread between the journalist I am today and the one I was then: I want to inspire others. By giving information, sharing experiences, or opening doors that were closed.

So, thank you Mr. Curls, for “breaking my heart” and making me move on – and for all those silly young butterflies. And in celebration of our “love” – here’s the ending of my article, dated 2001, called “Wish Upon a Star”, where I told our story word-for-word (mind the spelling, it’s taken verbatim):

“Sad ending, huh? I think so too. And the truth is, were not even friends now. Which is bad for me and bad for him. My mom says we both look hurt when we see eachother. And I guess she’s right. Now your wondering, Why am I telling you this? Why do you want to know about my little reletionship? This is why.

Many people tell you wishing apon stars never happens. But I belive stars have a deeper meaning. I belive stars are God in desiguse. He granted my wishes and he will grant yours. Find your star and always wish apon it, if it is the first star of the night. Another thing. Yes I had a great relantionship with this boy, and I had a horrible break up. I know you all must think I’m crazy because I was only in the 7th grade, and I have to admit I was overly serious. But still, from this I have gained so much. At times in our lives, we have troubles and problems. But I just remember that the right boy is out there for me. Even if this, even if that. I’m waiting for him and he’s waiting for me. And I know I’ll find him. Maybe it is and maybe its not this one boy, it doesn’t matter.”

And over 10 years later, the hopeful romantic in me isn’t gone. Oh yeah, he’s out there. But first, I’m finding me.