Tiny Love Stories: ‘A Couple With Nothing to Talk About’

One recent summer evening, my husband and I were sitting by the fire pit at our home north of Chicago, watching the flames dance, feeling tired but content. If someone had been watching us, they may have thought, “Now there’s a couple with nothing to talk about.” But, after 38 years of marriage — and a day biking and working in the backyard — I thought, “Who else could I do this with? Who else would I want to do this with?” Hours later, we checked the embers, covered the pit and headed wordlessly up to bed. — Ellen Blum Barish

A few days after my single, immigrant mother took her life, I dreamed that she appeared to me, then age 7 with no close family in Canada, and spoke some words of advice. Upon waking, I couldn’t remember what she said, though her voice remained vivid. At 40, I’ve walked a slippery road, learning that she did indeed love me, that nothing was my fault, that I could parent myself. Although the words of her message in my mind often change — evolving to fit my life circumstances — I know the feeling was one of protection and love. — Anne Sladen


August in a West Virginia sunflower field, early morning but already hot. Charlie’s blue helmet bobs through brilliant yellow flowers. He smiles as I eye other infants between the sunflower stalks. I envy their round heads, symmetrical faces, bare scalps. Suddenly, I miss Charlie’s smell, so I duck beneath his helmet to peck his cheek. “Why can’t I have a helmet like Charlie?” my older son moans, tugging at my shorts. A seed of jealousy planted in him, the root of my own problems, too: To believe our gifts are burdens, the inability to recognize our own bloom. — Anna Rollins

I caught sight of myself in the mirror and instinctually stopped dressing: In that moment, I saw my beauty. I wasn’t the “weirdo” who desires multiple partners, the “promiscuous” bisexual, or the “coldhearted” aromatic (all labels I have encountered throughout adolescence and even into adulthood). I was just me: free, worthy, human me, and my love for myself was infinite. And so, for the first time in months, I sat down to draw. — Kim Schmidt

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