Foil Hearts by Andrea Santo Felcone
So, I’ll admit, I was stumped. Every day I make my youngest son’s sandwich, wrap it in foil–send it off in his lunch bag. And every day, my six-year-old eats his sandwich, twists the foil into these odd shapes, and sends it back in his lunch bag. This went on for a bit of time, when it finally dawns on me (and the shapes got clearer) what the shapes actually are. They are HEARTS. And when I ask him about the foil hearts, he tells me that every day he finishes his sandwich and makes a foil heart for me. So, today, I’m sharing the foil hearts with you. Because like it or not, it’s Valentine’s Day–a day dedicated to hearts. But I think it’s more than that. I think my six-year-old has it right, it seems this world could use a little more love and compassion, and these foil hearts have started me thinking.
I’m thinking about the logistics of this: Picture if you will, an average elementary school lunchroom, where every Monday through Friday, a six-year-old boy sits at his little lunch table twisting a foil heart for his mother. No one told him to do this. Take comfort in that. And those kids at his lunch table, those kids are cool with it. No one makes fun of him for showing his gratitude and love for his mother. Take further comfort in that. Maybe it’s because they are all sitting at the “nut-free” table that makes them understand each other a little better than if they’d been seated elsewhere. But, I don’t think so. I think people understand that some things are important to a kid. And in this case, it’s that he has a job to do, he has foil to twist before he throws away his lunch trash (of which this clearly is not). So, they watch him twist the foil hearts every day. When he’s not trying to “gross them out” by aggressively licking the lid of his yogurt container, (he’s still a six-year-old boy for goodness sake), he’s fashioning his sandwich foil into hearts for his mother.
I’m also thinking about the symmetry of this: For my part, here back at home, I like the symmetry of it. I put together his food (with love) to nourish him throughout his day, and he rewards me with a foil heart of gratitude. It’s like a communication, only in the beginning I didn’t understand the language. I didn’t hear his message. But, now that I do, it’s as clear as well … “Saran Wrap”. Which, by the way, I can never use, now that I know he’s going to make a foil heart for me. And you may wonder if this is getting “old” now that we are more than halfway through the school year. Well, the short answer is “no”. How could it? Sometimes I get lost in my thoughts as I clean out his lunch bag, and that day’s foil heart takes me by surprise. And then I stop and observe, and realize each foil heart, almost like snowflakes, looks slightly different than the others. So, even though the expression of love is the same, it manifests itself in a slightly different way each day. And each day I open the lunch bag, I’m surprised again by their purity, innocence, beauty—their craftsmanship. He certainly has a way with foil.
And I’m thinking about how sometimes love is right in front of you and you ignore it, or worse yet; you throw it away. (I did toss a bunch of those twisted foil ‘shapes’ before I knew what they were). Those foil hearts remind me how love comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes in the obvious, showy forms: like fancy jewelry (if you are into that sort of thing) or flowers, but sometimes it will appear (more subtly) in the form of twisty crumb-filled foil. And, although those grand gestures are nice, the best forms of love, in my humble opinion, are the everyday things we do for one another. The quiet things. Those small acts of kindness that show someone is thinking about you—those acts will melt your heart.
And, finally, I’m thinking, “what ‘foil hearts’ do I send out in any given day?” This question put to my boys, seems to draw “crickets” in response. At first they seem confused. I wonder if they see all the little things. Do they understand my communication, my language? Do they hear my messages? I mean, really, the entire “Mom Job Description” is one giant series of ‘foil hearts’. “The driving” and “the lunches” and “the scheduling” and “cutting-the-oranges-the-exact-way-you-like-them” and “washing-your-little-sweatpants-for-the-billionth-time” (because you can’t stand the feel of jeans). All those little ‘foil heart’ things I do each day to make life more seamless and enjoyable for my loved ones. And not just because they are in the “job description” but because I like to do those things. Those ‘foil hearts’ require “knowing details about you” and “paying attention to you”. And I like that. And if you don’t notice them all, well, that’s because, although they are ‘foil hearts’ of a sort, they really aren’t flashy.
I’m trying to get over the fact that I’m slightly disappointed that no one can name anything, when suddenly, “Little Guy” pipes up: “I know, I know. You’re Mom! … Is that the right answer?” (There really was no “right answer,” but YES, that’s the perfect answer.) Yes, “I’m Mom.” And, my older son agrees with that answer. So they do see those small gestures—my every day ‘foil hearts’—my “love notes” if you will, from me—to my boys (husband included). They do realize being a Mom is a ‘foil heart’ kind of job. And even though school lunch time has passed many hours ago; my six-year-old has just given me another ‘foil heart’ in the form of that answer, and there isn’t enough aluminum in the world to express my gratitude.