Love languages have been on my mind lately, in part because of Skype conversations with my oldest sister, Melissa. We haven’t actually discussed love or love languages, but what we have done is engaged in amusing ways to say goodbye to each other as we sign off each Monday and Thursday after our work sessions.
Our love language started pretty early on in our lives. There are four of us siblings, and we only have five years separating us oldest to youngest, so we are pretty close, not only in age, but in all things. Time and distance never takes that away. Anyway, Melissa, as oldest, often had ways to entertain the rest of us. One of the earliest ‘love language’ incidents that I can recall is that of ‘bunnies and squirrels.’ Melissa and I were the bunnies, and Barry and Susan were the squirrels. I assume the determination of what animal was assigned to what sibling was based on the fact that Melissa and I are the ‘bookends’ of the family. Other than being named bunnies and squirrels, I am not sure if there was much to the names other than the language of love – a sister making up a funny little thing to the amusement of her siblings.
Another memory is of Melissa saying goodnight to Susan, the sibling closest in age to me, and me. Susan and I shared a room, and Melissa and Barry shared a room. Being younger, Susan and I had to go to bed earlier, and often, if our parents were out to dinner or at the neighbors, Melissa would babysit us. When Melissa would put us to bed, she would walk out the door, and seconds later, she would return, saying, “Oops, I forgot my hat!” For reasons that would only be known to young children, we found this hysterically funny, and she would do it several times as we settled in for the night. Along those same lines, but without the words, Melissa’s love language would involve sometimes waking me up after Susan and Barry were asleep and she was babysitting us. She would let me color in her coloring books and use her special pastel chalks to draw in her blank drawing books. We would watch Death Valley Days and The Twilight Zone until she heard the sound of our parents’ car in the driveway, and then she would hustle me into bed before they came in the door.
I am sure there are many other instances of that early love language, but as we grew, it changed somewhat. As before, it usually involved a lot of what would seem to be silliness to other people, but for us, it was something special. Melissa headed off to college the year I entered eighth grade. Sometime in the next four years, we discovered two new literary characters – Paddington Bear and Lord Peter Wimsey. Our letters to each other were often in envelopes that bore addresses that I am sure, if the postman ever looked carefully, caused amusement or puzzlement, or both. A letter might be addressed to Miss Nancy P.B. Corcoran or to Miss Melissa P.D.B.W Corcoran (for Paddington Bear and Peter Death Bredon Wimsey respectively). We had many variations on the theme, and entertained ourselves for years with using them. Silly? Maybe so, but it was part of our love language.
Further into our amusing ways to address each other came my years of studying French in high school. Somewhere, I found it amusing to address her as ma soeur. Somewhere, somehow, that got totally butchered, and we began to address each other as ma swa, with the swa now including Susan and meaning Sisters with Attitude. All three of us continue to address each other as Swa to this day, and it is our love language (as an aside, Bruce often asks if I have the remotest clue of how soeur is pronounced. I do.).
Fast forward to now. For awhile, in both writing and on calls, Melissa would end with ‘later, gator’ and I would almost always respond with ‘after while crocodile’. Early on, Melissa would change things up with ‘later, my little swa gator’, and so it began. Solely for our own amusement, we began to mess with the spelling, coming up with ‘lator gator’ or ‘wial dial’. It’s a thing now, and lately we have branched out, mixing things up with ‘later dile’ or ‘wile gator’. We have even begun to include other animals, adding to our repertoire things such as ‘bye fly’, ‘au revoir jagoir’, ‘ciao meow’, and ‘lotter otter’. It continues to be just as silly sounding as addressing envelopes to fictional characters was 40 years ago, but I find I actually spend time trying to think of ways to say good-bye that will amuse her and brighten her day. We often crack ourselves up, even when we have heard it all before. But that is what love language will do to you.
I like to think that I have a love language with each of my family members and others whom I hold dear. Sometimes, parts of the love language extend across several family members, while others are unique to the individual. What the language is, and how one speaks it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we connect with each other through the language of love.