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Miles into our icy hike, Daniel removed his gloves to warm my face in his hands. My eyes closed. At 12, I asked my pediatrician when my baby cheeks would disappear. “Sometimes that’s just our face, sweetie.” I fought back tears. In college, a friend’s mother referred to me as “con mặt tròn tròn,” Vietnamese for “the one with the very round face.” Last year, my mother finally riddled out why I hated whenever she brushed hair from my face. I opened my eyes. My cheeks still cradled, I’d never felt more seen, or loved, than in those winter woods. — Hanh-Tu Ella Do
My father hoarded his dry-roasted peanuts, those over-salted ones in the glass jar with a metal lid. He’d share with his young sons begrudgingly. Aggrieved, he’d tap them out from the jar: one lid-full at most, always. As adults, my brother and I were astounded to find these peanuts sold in ordinary grocery stores. The first time I visited his new home in Boston, my brother opened his own jar, handed me the lid, then poured. I stood frozen as the lid filled, then overfilled, peanuts spilling freely onto his kitchen floor. I looked, and he smiled, and he poured. — Scott Best
The Message Is the Same
When I turned 13, my mother gave me a silver link bracelet. Together, we added charms, tangible commemorations of special events, trips, hobbies. My teenage daughter didn’t like bracelets. She commemorated college with an Emily Dickinson tattoo, to my dismay. Others followed, inspired by movies we watched together: Jimmy Stewart’s flash camera from “Rear Window,” and Scout’s ham costume from “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Then dressmaker shears for the sewing talents of my mother, for whom she’s named. With the scissors homage, I finally got it. I jingle charms. My daughter sports tattoos. We both wear love on our arms. — Clorisa Phillips
What I Thought Love Was
After coming out as a gay man, I thought love meant self-sacrifice. To win the affection of others, I abandoned my own desires and boundaries. Several failed first dates and unkept promises later, I needed a change. That change took the form of staying with family for a month in Switzerland, escaping Minnesota’s brutal winter and equally unpleasant dating scene. Despite having what I believed to be a robust understanding of love, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Love, I came to understand with the help of my family, begins by turning inward, by accepting and celebrating yourself first. — Noah Foster
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