Saturday, 10 November 2012

Love songs 4: The missing measure

Every night, the last thing the Impster does before she goes to sleep is to try and find a measure: 'I love you more than my Lego Friends set.' 'I love you more than my new hairband.' 'I love you a trillion million.'

She has now developed a love index, where her best friend Isabella is usually 120, daddy and mummy drift around the 100 mark, and the boo exists in a very elastic range of 0-100 dependent on his daily behaviour.

When she was smaller, I used to read her Guess How Much I Love You. In that story Little Nutbrown Hare tries to explain to Big Nutbrown Hare just how much he loves him - it's as far as he can stretch, as high as he can jump, and finally all the way to the moon. And Big Nutbrown Hare's stretch is always greater, his jump is always higher, and finally, as he tucks Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves he whispers, 'I love you all the way to the moon and back.' Childish or not, we never seem to grow out of the need to somehow measure our love so that we can express it.

These last three days I've been in Jersey, and I'm missing the things the children say that make me laugh, and I wonder if they've had time to miss me too? I'm even missing my two-year-old morning alarm - one of the things in truth, that I was looking forward to escaping.

Often, at the end of a day when I've been at work the boo will turn to me and say, 'I missed you so much today mummy.'

Perhaps he's just experimenting with a line he's heard me say, and he knows it makes me melt. Or perhaps he's beginning to measure the pain of separation - knowing that time, whether or not we can use a clock to 'tell' it, can endlessly stretch or instantly compress, depending on the day.

What better measure is there of how much we love someone than by the amount we miss them? I'm not sure if absence makes the heart grow fonder but I'm pretty sure it makes us start to count. Sinaid O'Connor knew something about love when she sang, 'It's been seven hours and fifteen days, Since you took your love away.'

Maybe the unfortunate truth is that we're never so inclined to count the minutes and hours as when it pains us most to do so. Want to guess how much I love you? I measure it out not just in significant dates and memories, but also one lost moment at a time.