We were not an “I love you family” when I was growing up. We knew families that were, of course, knew of parents who punctuated every phone conversation with “I love you,” knew of children who could not go out to play without first shouting “Bye! I love you!” into an empty hallway on the assumption it would float toward a family member’s ears. We certainly found such affection lovely. We just didn’t do it.
I’m not sure I can explain the reason we did not verbalize; love was certainly at the core of my childhood. It was everywhere. I guess that cuts close to the heart of why we didn’t talk about it — there is something decidedly practical about my parents. I think saying “I love you,” was viewed as overkill, not unlike saying “Don’t forget to breathe at school today,” or “be sure to put one foot in front of the other when you walk.” Or maybe, more than a concern about overkill, it was a stubborn refusal to be obvious. Love was to be seen in every hard-earned compliment, in every fair punishment, in every one of those thousand movies my mother took me to see, in the very act of my father getting up before dawn to go to the factory and in every game of catch he found the energy to play in the afternoon.
I think the message, if there was a message, was that recognizing love was as important as expressing it.