Love Is…


I’m a romantic, and I love Valentine’s Day. What could delight more than a box of chocolates, a vase of red tulips, and a gigantic card with sparkly hearts splashed across it? But on this Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing a story about familial love.

In sociology, familial love is an affinity or natural affection felt between members of a group bound by common ancestry or blood ties. The cultural ideal of familial love is one that is committed, unconditional, selfless, and emotionally full (

My mother wrote the following poem for me when I was a teen caught up in the notion of romantic love.

Love Is…
Sometimes love is one red rose,
Sometimes love is orange blossoms
and a diamond ring.

But oft times than not,
love is plain everyday,
Like potatoes boiled, mashed,
or baked;

Like clean clothes on the line,
A bandage on a cut finger,
or just a family gathered ‘round.

I’m not sure what inspired the poem, but it struck me as incredibly corny. For the first time in my short life, I viewed my mother as terribly out of touch.

My mother died two years after penning “Love Is.”

The verse ended up in a folder labeled MAMA’S POEMS, which I carried with me when I left home. Fast forward several years. I’m now the mother of three young children.

My family is spending Spring Break knocking out home maintenance tasks. My husband is painting the exterior of our house and cleaning up the yard while I organize inside and entertain the kids. We’ve had a pretty good week. Until today.

“Mommy!” shrieked my oldest from the bathroom, breaking my reverie.

What now? Too much togetherness had led to petty squabbles all morning.

 I enter the bathroom and watch the commode’s overflow soak the once-fluffy bath mat. My toddler flashes me a blissful smile as he repeatedly pulls the handle to flush away whatever he’d tossed in the wonderful receptacle. Through wails, his sister tells me it was her Barbie Doll’s head.

Briefly, I wonder what my friends off on cruises or combing the beach are doing.

The mishap was settled with promises of a new doll, and we walked to the park. Now the house is peaceful. Baby boy sleeps. Older daughter enthralls younger sister by dancing last year’s recital piece decked out in ballet garb.

I decide to unpack last year’s summer clothes What might still fit? What can go to charity? But first, they needed washing.

A bit later, I pull a fresh load of play clothes from the dryer and began the tedious task of folding and stacking. As each pile grew, the individuality of my children emerged. The oldest, seeking self-identity in fashion, owned the wackiest collection. Middle Child refused anything except girl colors, her stack a rainbow of pinks and purples. Toddler lived in t-shirts and jeans. 

I held one of his shirts now, a favorite worn just yesterday. The garment was streaked with grape juice prior to washing, and I examined in now.  The stain was gone. A wave of contentment swept over me, and I pressed my son’s warm shirt to my face, inhaling its Downey scent. It was a cup-running-over kind of moment.

My full heart triggered a memory. No longer concerned with the laundry, I scurried to find my mama’s poem.  My heart beat a little faster as I read it. Then read it again. I smiled.  The poem was, for the first time, truly mine. Pressing it to my chest, I closed my eyes a moment and sent a “Thank You!” to God.

I recognized my mother’s valiant effort to blend my concept of love with hers, to bridge the generational divide. She had arrived at a point in life when familial love took precedence over romantic love.

Although my mother died two years after she wrote “Love Is” I connected with her twenty years later through “our” poem.

That evening, with family gathered ‘round the wooden picnic table, I dished out potatoes, mashed.

I smiled as my freshly-showered husband batted away a gnat and a child knocked over a cup of milk.

It’s not paradise, but there’s no place I’d rather be than with this family, wiping up spilt milk.

The cultural ideal of familial love is one that is committed, unconditional, selfless, and emotionally full. #FamilialLove #Love Click To Tweet

Wishing you a love-filled Valentine’s Day! How do you celebrate?

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  1. Your mother’s poem could not be any truer. I feel the most loved when my husband wakes me with coffee each morning. It’s the routine acts of kindness that touch me the most.

  2. I love this, Candyce! The sweetness of knowing “this is love.” And you are loving your dear family deeper through cleaning up messes than a hundred bouquets of roses. Thank you for reminding us that familial love is awesome, too!

    1. You’re right, Barb. It doesn’t always feel like love though, does it. Praying for the people while doing it brings in that loving feeling though.

      Thanks for your kind comment

  3. Such a precious gift from your mom! She could have simply brushed off your fanciful notions about lovey-dovey romance, but she took the time to write her message in a way that might not be understood in the moment but was still speaking to you decades later. Often, we can’t hear a message until we’re primed.

    1. Thanks for those words. It reminds me of an old saying, “when the student is ready, the teacher shows up,”

      This one was definitely God’s timing.

  4. Happy belated Valentine’s Day, Candyce! I loved this story of a typical family day and your mother’s poem that reminds us of the many kinds of love, especially those acts of love we do each day for those we love!

    1. Yes – and those everyday acts of love don’t always feel like love. But they are! We don’t love by words alone but also with actions and truth.

      Thanks, Kathy!

    1. I know! And my moms writing gave me a whole other perspective on her because I didn’t know her as an adult.

      Thank you for sharing your similar experience!

  5. What a beautiful story, Candyce. Thank you for sharing these precious memories. Like you, I recall seemingly ordinary events (such as looking through our children’s clothes) as very special times. Your mother sounds very loving and wise. She recognized the many dimensions of love, and the reality that our most treasured experiences can come through a different type of love that the romantic aspect. Mashed potatoes is a great way to share love with our families. Happy Valentine’s Week!

    1. Familial love, like God’s love, lasts. Romantic love, not always. God speaks to us through the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

      Thanks for your encouraging words!

  6. This is a beautiful story, Candyce. I love the way your Mother’s words resurfaced at a time when you were able to truly understand them. It’s the everyday-ness of love that we overlook. That’s where true lasting love is found.

  7. Happy Valentines Ms. Candyce. Thank you for “sweetening” my day with such wonderful memories ma’am. I too can recall feeling my adopted parents were so very out of touch. Interestingly enough, I sought them out for that same sage advice I silently scoffed at 20 years earlier. I hold on dearly to those things of the past that remind me of them and how much they loved me. Thank you for making my day ma’am. God’s blessings.

    1. You scoffed too?? Thanks for sharing that, JD. I was so hard on my mother as a teen, and we never realIy got to reconcile. But I felt she was with me on that day when I re-discovered her poem and its meaning. I love how God provides insights into our past which show how He took care of us through our earthly families.

  8. Happy Valentines Day to you, Candyce! What a lovely post. In fact, I think it’s my favorite of all that you’ve written (and that’s saying something). Your mother’s wisdom lives on through your words. Thank you!

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