Tiny Love Stories: ‘We Shared a Small Bed and a Single Pillow’

Getting care packages at sleep-away camp felt like getting hugs through the mail. Gum, games and Mad Libs equaled instant, albeit fleeting, popularity. Now, from upstate New York, I return the favor to my mother at her senior residence in San Francisco. Dried apricots, bagels and lox, and masks show my love, but they cannot replace real contact, nor clear California’s smoky air. Midway through summer camp, we’d watch each parent’s car pull up to find their camper. Hugs during those reunions were big and long. Please, are we midway through this ordeal yet? — Melissa McNeese

ImageMy mother holding a shirt from her care package.

Conor and I had just decided to go steady when his Canadian visa expired. He wanted me to return to Ireland with him. I didn’t want him to be my only lifeline in an unfamiliar country. “Let’s go be starving artists in Berlin instead,” I said, half joking. Berlin was new to both of us. After moving, we didn’t have much. We shared a small bed and a single pillow, but I was happy because he held me tight as we slept every night. Years later, on our queen bed with an excess of pillows, he still holds me like I would fall off if he didn’t. — Sandy Yu

All night, my grandfather, Pepere, speaks in languages my family does not understand, claiming that dozens of robbers are breaking in or a concert is out on the deck. On unlucky dementia days, he confuses me for a past girlfriend, or puts the remote in the microwave. Pepere has earned many titles: World War II soldier, labor camp survivor, refugee to France and, most recently, 100-year-old grandfather. These days, my family focuses on the present, grateful for the warmth of his smile, the life of his language and the autumn of his age. — Abby Donnelly

He got sad first. In a sea of anxiety, he lost his sense of self and self-worth. Sometimes, I cradled him in my arms and covered his face with kisses. Sometimes, I retreated into the calm of my own inner world. I got sad second. One morning, after arguing with my mother over coronavirus conspiracy theories, I couldn’t get up. He coaxed me out of bed with promises of light refracting off waves and briny winds, a sanctuary from the wildfire smoke. Walking hand-in-hand, our toes in the cold Pacific, I cried, finally allowing myself to feel the world’s weight. Lilian Caylee Wang

Leave a Reply