Make Me A Plate: Love in Different Languages
That moment when your parents consider you too old to be tucked in before bed, your heart breaks. For me that was at ten years old. Why is there an age when you’re considered too old to be tucked into bed? Getting tucked into bed meant my Dad would lay down next to me and read me poems from my favorite Nicaraguan poet: Ruben Darío. After delving into a couple of new ones, my Dad and I would always come back to our favorite one: “Margarita DeBayle”. The traditional “margarita te voy a contar un cuento” had become “Melissita, te voy a contar un cuento”. Just listening to the familiar rhythm made me feel safe and ready to go to bed. After this, my mom would come in and officially tuck me in, without ever forgetting our goodnight prayers. Who decided I was too old to receive my mother’s love before going to sleep?
With time, I learned that being tucked into bed could evolve into other habits: the long ritual turned into a hug and a kiss goodnight, and my father waking me up every morning before school. I grew up and found love in other, more subtle actions. Like the way my Dad took time off his schedule to read my essays and the way my Mom stayed awake when I had long nights of cramming to make sure I was alright. But you see, you don’t really understand love until you lose it, or at least until you miss it.
Culturally, love presents itself through many different forms. For some, love is a simple smile, for others is a warm hug and for the coldest of hearts sometimes love is being left alone. For me, love comes in tiny packages, hidden from everyone’s sight. In small, barely recognizable gestures that you only notice after they take place. Like when my younger brother bought me a small heart shaped pillow from his own “savings” so that I wouldn’t forget him now that I was leaving for college. Or when every month I get a small package from my grandmother filled with small goodies and sometimes even a pair of fluffy socks.
Latin Americans express love vehemently, with passion, exuberance and loud voices. The extended families are filled with laughter, too many kisses and way too much food. You see, for my extended family love entails support and unity. One of the ways I have seen this recently was when my mother told my grandmother in less than two minutes the good news: I had a part time job. Within seconds I had received a text from my grandmother, my aunt and my grandfather. Some could see this as severe gossip issues and an invasion of privacy, but for me, this just reminds me that my family, regardless of where they are, is always thinking about me and what I do.
Far away from home, physical affection is one of the things that I miss the most. In the US, it is not very common to be extremely affectionate. One of the subtler forms of cultural shock I experienced is the simple fact that you don’t usually hug and kiss people when you meet or greet them, instead you shake hands. I sometimes find myself craving one of my father’s warm hugs or my mother’s usual hug before I leave the house for the day. Latino love is special. Latino love is warm.
Love can be seen in the words of my favorite poet:
“Casi casi me quisiste/casi casi te he querido/si no es por el casi casi/casi me caso contigo.”
There are also many different types of love: familial love, friendship love, knock you off your feet love, sweet love, friends but aren’t we actually lovers kind of loves and the list goes on. Depending on where you are and the culture that surrounds you, love is expressed in different ways and forms.