A long, long time ago, I was told a story that was so powerful to the person I was at the time that I’ve been carrying around its message ever since. I can’t really remember its details, where I heard it, or even who told it; I just know its premise and its lesson. So here I am, telling a story I only halfway remember in my own words and with my own little details along the way. No matter its variations from the original anecdote, I am sure the heart of the message will be the same. Maybe you’ve heard the tale before too. I hope it speaks to your spirit as it did mine.
“I Love You This Much”
By K.A. Phinney
There once was a little boy who loved his mother so very much. In fact, he loved her so deeply that he was inspired, in the way five year olds are, to give his mommy something very special.
So he set out about his days, making a grand plan. The little boy wanted something absolutely beautiful to give to his mother so he could truly show her just how much he loved her, but he knew (at such a tender age) that he had no means to speak of. So instead, he reviewed in his mind all of the things within his reach that his mother truly loved… beautiful things. He knew she loved animals, books, and sewing. But he couldn’t do anything with those things. So he mused on.
And then he had a miniature epiphany. There were two things his mother loved more than anything. For generations, there was one possession that even this little boy had already grown to respect and cherish, just as his mother did. The white porcelain and blue filigree antique vase that sat erect, pristine, and untouched at the top of his mother’s hutch in the dinning room. He knew she loved it so, but was confused by the fact that she never touched it. After all, he truly loved his toys and made sure to play with them all the time, until they were tired and needed replacing even.
His mother loved one more thing a great, great deal. In her free time from her duties around the home and raising her son, she could be found in one place and one place only… her garden. In her garden, the little boy’s mother grew all types of vibrant colored flowers. Throughout the spring and summer there were often daises and roses and tulips. There were geraniums and lilies too. And when his mother wasn’t tending her garden, she would relax in a lawn chair with a mystery book of sorts and take in the beauty of her work.
So now it was all very clear to the boy. When his mother was busy, because it had to be a secret of course, he would sneak out into his mother’s garden and cut down the most beautiful flowers that were offered. Then he would climb up a big chair, stand on his tippy tippy toes, reach as far as he could, and take down that beautiful vase. And finally, he’d clean the dust from the vase and put the flowers into its beautiful mouth. When his mother would come into the room, she’d see her beloved vase full of an array of breathtaking flowers sitting atop the dinning room table. Then and only then, the little boy thought with flooding joy, his mommy would see just how much he loved her.
When the timing was right, as his mother was busy folding laundry upstairs in her bedroom, the little boy set to work. He found the garden sheers and slipped out the back door. He clipped, clipped, clipped, taking down several delicate flower heads from their respective bushes. He gathered his findings, and slipped back inside the house. Now he was dragging a chair across the sticky carpet to the front of the towering hutch. He had to work fast and quietly so his mommy wouldn’t come and see what he was doing before he was ready to show her how much he loved her. He positioned the chair just so and began to climb its woody legs and back. The vase was almost in reach. Higher and higher his little arms outstretched as he wiggled his fingers in earnest, just brushing the bust of the vase with their tips. One more try he thought, as he inhaled and pushed his toes to their tippy tips. This time his finger clasped the vase. An instant smile leapt between his cheeks but was quickly chased away. The vase was far heavier than the little boy expected, and it slipped from his finger and began to teeter. Back and forth it went until it lost its balance entirely. The boy let out a gasp and then a tearful cry.
“Mommy!” he cried as he watched the vase tip slowly, bump off the ledge of the hutch, and hurl for the ground.
His mother heard a crash and came hurdling down the stairs.
“Michael!” she cried out. “What are you doing?”
“I’m sorry, Mommy. I didn’t mean it.”
The little boy crawled down from the chair and ran into his mother’s arms. She stood frozen in shock, but embraced him as her own nonetheless.
“I-I-I…” The boy was crying uncontrollably. “I wanted to show you how much I loved you…”
His mother took stock of the scene before her. There was a chair, an opened back door, a shattered heirloom, and her garden flowers scattered across the dinning room table. The story all came together, and she understood her little one’s intentions. How could she be angry? How could she find fault in his motives?
The little boy was tense and shivered as he gripped his little arms around her hips. “I’m sorry, Mommy. Please don’t be mad.”
She took a deep breath and briefly mourned the loss of her priceless vase that rested in a million little pieces upon the floor. And in that moment, the feelings of displeasure were gone. She stooped down and scooped her little boy into her arms.
“Honey, I’m not mad at you. You never meant to break my vase. You wanted to give me pretty flowers in my favorite thing, didn’t you?”
“Yes, Mommy, yes,” He cooed.
“Then I could never be angry about that. I see how much you love me.”
“I do. I love you this much, Mommy.” And with that, the little boy stretched out his arms to show her just how much, and hugged her around the neck.
And before she knew it, the little boy's mother was the one crying. But unlike the boy's, her tears were for joy.