“Artichokes,” she answered, when we wondered what she would like to eat before facing five days of camp food. “Buy four, so we each can have our own heart.”
Extravagant, sure. But Sunday’s family dinner would need to hold us until she returned Friday afternoon. By all means, buy the artichokes.
Perhaps she knew we needed reinforcement – one or two meager artichoke hearts broken into pieces was not enough. We each needed a whole heart to steel ourselves for the week ahead.
“I can’t do it, I’m not going,” she said as we filled her suitcase, following packing instructions to the letter. “Of course you can,” I countered, wondering if my heart would be the one to crack first.
At bedtime we whispered tales of adventures and friends and how fast five days would pass. Both of us agreed this was too big an opportunity to let slip away simply because we were scared.
Sleep arrived reluctantly, lightly. We could hear each other from across the hall, rustling in beds, hearts racing in anticipation of the morning’s events.
Daylight brought brave faces and forced cheerfulness. But the bus, looming impossibly huge in the parking lot, cast a shadow over our tenuous sunshine of happy thoughts.
A couple of false starts and then it was truly time. Kids, suddenly looking like kindergarteners with oversized backpacks, filed past clumps of parents offering casual waves and “see ya laters.”
She runs ahead, straight to me, for one last hug. Fighting tears but losing the battle, we squeeze tightly.
It isn’t easy living with such a soft shell — experiencing emotions as if they were distilled and intensified, almost too bitter or too sweet to endure. But as we held each other I realized that I’m in good company, our small club of sensitive souls.
With a salty kiss planted on her cheek, I send her on her adventure, embarrassed by the misty eyes but also confident that the only way to navigate our world is by feeling every moment with a whole heart.