I clearly remember the ending of Mannequin. Andrew McCarthy had just kissed a pre Sex in the City Kim Cattrall, mall statue turned human, leaving behind a lonely maintenance worker to pick up the garbage. He began rifling through the scattered mannequin parts, desperately in search of someone to kiss – and then it was time for me to go to bed.
I was distraught. I was so sad thinking about the lonely man looking for love when everyone else had found someone. I probably cried. I was a big crier in the 80s. When I woke up the next morning, my sister jumped into my room. Guess what? After you went to bed, I found out the man did find someone and they lived happily ever after.
Strangely, this is one of my first active memories of a love story. Sure I was raised with Disney princesses and a mother who cried at An Affair to Remember but something about that employee really got me. Maybe it was his determination or the fact that my sister fabricated the ending just to make me happy, but this shaped how I viewed love. Everyone had a soul mate – even if it was made of plastic first.
But this is not a Valentine’s story dedicated to Andrew McCarthy’s 80s films. It was just the beginning of my hopeless romantic phase. I had a profound theory at age 8. Finding a partner was like standing on a line waiting for lunch. Then, every other person just turned around and loved the person behind them – and then everyone was happy. Simple enough. Sadly for me, this phase extended a few decades. I was the teenager desperately listening to Delilah love songs on my Walkman and dancing to Brandy’s version of Cinderella. I was dreaming Dawson would climb through my window. Luckily I took the advice to not write about him for my senior quote and instead wrote “marry a hopelessly romantic man and raise our chubby babies together”. None of these details have been fabricated. Seriously, check out Roxbury HS yearbook class of 1999 under “things that seemed like a good idea then”.
I might have felt this way because I am the daughter of a beautiful love story. It might be because my home was always filled with the possibility of dreaming – but I was a big, curly haired, gush ball for romance.
And this is where the story fast forwards. Move to New York. Actively pursue adorable Texan boy with great curls. Dream about the future. Get married. Work. Have three beautiful children. Go to Target.
But this is not a Valentine’s day story about my incredible husband. That’s a story for another day. It is in fact, the beginning of when I realized that everything I thought about love was in fact – not the point at all.
This lesson came from my four year old daughter, who did inherit her father’s perfect curls. And despite all of my experience as an English teacher, I will never find words to capture this moment. This is what I knew. She was never supposed to talk. She was not going to speak in sentences. She was certainty not going to say something so beautiful I couldn’t catch my breath.
“You a good momma. Your heart is perfect for my heart.”
She pointed at the book she was looking at. Two hearts. She simply saw two hearts the same size. Momma heart. Jordan heart.
I will never know what prompted this connection between seeing two symmetrical hearts and us, but it will forever give me strength. There have been long days. There will be even longer ones. But like the bracelet I never take off reads, “ I carry your heart”. It is my greatest joy to be her mother and breathe in the simplicity of her love.
I have played with idea of a true love story my entire life. But a real love story is not always passion and romance. It is knowing that someone protects your heart. That you are held firmly in their hands, and that no matter what happens, even when you may fall, you cannot hit rock bottom – because they got you.
And she is right. My heart is perfect for her heart.
Sorry 1980s, but your love lesson has been replaced.
For those of you who cannot wait another moment without googling the ending of Mannequin. Here’s a terrible recording of it. Enjoy.