These Three Words
One of my favorite songs for a good stretch of my childhood was the Stevie Wonder hit “These Three Words”. It’s an ode to the weighted phrase that couples say to each other to express that higher level of affection. It’s about the phrase “I Love You”. Three short and simple words that mean so much. It’s a phrase that isn’t said enough, if you ask Stevie.
As a kid I romanticized about one day having that storybook relationship that I wanted my parents to have. One of my favorite memories is that one time I saw them slow dancing in Grandmother’s dining room as people were cleaning up after a party. My father had punched a guy earlier that night after the guy allegedly disrespected Mom. I didn’t see the punching part, but I saw the dancing and I wanted that to exist for them forever and then trickle down to me and my future wife forever.
Obviously it didn’t work out like that. I can’t recall one other romantic moment between my parents, but I always longed for it. I even vowed to avoid all of the typical pitfalls that they showcased on sitcoms. I trained myself to never leave the toilet seat up (Swedie will attest to this fact) and I learned the principles of making a good meal.
I can’t remember my parents ever saying “I love you” to each other. That’s not good. They said it on TV and in movies. Why not at home. Why couldn’t they just love each other like I loved them? They were loveable people! I didn’t understand. I knew for a fact that one day I would say those words to someone and mean it. She would say it back to me as well. Then my heart would fill up and happiness would pump throughout my body forever. It would be like the movies:
- I love you
- I love you too
Man I longed for that. I wouldn’t waste the words though. It really meant something to be telling somebody that you loved them. Hell, I was convinced my parents loved each other but they didn’t say it. It would be a while before I would (audibly) share those feelings with someone. It was like a movie scene. I felt like I was about to burst. I said it.
- I love you.
- I love you, too.
- No… I’m in love with you.
Then we kissed. Penny Marshall couldn’t script it better! I was off and running from there. As a defense mechanism I was sure to say it when I was sure the other person felt the same way. It could get really awkward otherwise.
- I love you.
- Word? Um… so uh, you still watch tennis?
But you get a feel for it. You know when you and that other person are getting to that special place. The words meant something. I said it and then she would say it back. “I love you” followed by “I love you too”. One girlfriend said “I love you back” which I thought was cute. That was our thing.
Then Swedie came along and changed the game. I knew I was falling for this girl very early on. We just clicked. She had planned to spend the entire summer with me. I wanted to tell her how I felt face to face. Full disclosure: one drunken night I told her over the phone, but if you don’t remember it then it didn’t happen, so…
One warm summer night in North Carolina we were laying down about to go to sleep. We were talking about stuff and I was preparing to pour my heart out. I was exploding again. I knew she would say it back. Then we’d ride off into the proverbial sunset. It was time. I locked eyes with her.
- I love you
But she didn’t say “I love you too”. She looked even deeper into my eyes and said:
- I love you
Short and simple. Just like Stevie talked about. It was the first time I had heard it without a “too” or “back” or “more”. It wasn’t reactionary. It was like she meant it more than anyone who had ever said it to me. It was right. I felt right then and there that this thing was more special somehow. My mind was blown. It’s been blown ever since.
I still get a little flutter in my heart when Swedie responds to my “I love you”s in her way. I make sure to say it in front of the kids. I make sure to show the affection for her that my parents never displayed. They will hear my ‘I love you’s. They will see me melt with her ‘I love you’s. Just like I dreamed it up as a kid. Until next time…