When I was a
new mommy, I invented a quiet little signal, two quick
hand squeezes, that grew into our family’s secret “I
Long before she could debate the
merits of pierced ears or the need to shave her legs, my
daughter, Carolyn, would toddle next to me clasping my
finger for that much-needed support to keep her from
Whether we were casually
walking in the park or scurrying on our way to
playgroup, if Carolyn’s tiny hand was in mine, I would
tenderly squeeze it twice and whisper, “I love you.”
Children love secrets, and little Carolyn was no
exception. So, this double hand squeeze became our
special secret. I didn’t do it all the time - - just
every so often when I wanted to send a quiet message of
“I love you” to her from me.
The years flew by,
and Carolyn started school. She was a big girl now, so
there was no need for little secret signals anymore...
or so I thought.
It was the morning of her
kindergarten class show. Her class was to perform their
skit before the entire Lower School, which would be a
daunting experience. The big kids - - all the way to
sixth grade - - would be sitting in the audience.
Carolyn was nervous, as were all her little
As proud family and friends filed
into the auditorium to take their seats behind the
students, I saw Carolyn sitting nervously with her
classmates. I wanted to reassure her, but I knew that
anything I said would run the risk of making her feel
Then I remembered our secret
signal. I left my seat and walked over to her. Carolyn’s
big brown eyes watched each of my steps as I inched
closer. I said not a word, but leaned over and took her
hand and squeezed it twice. Her eyes met mine, and I
immediately knew that she recognized the message. She
instantly returned the gesture giving my hand two quick
squeezes in reply. We smiled at each other, and I took
my seat and watched my confident little girl, and her
class, perform beautifully.
Carolyn grew up and
our family welcomed two younger brothers, Bryan and
Christian. Through the years, I got more experienced at
the mothering game, but I never abandoned the secret “I
love you” hand squeeze.
Whether the boys were
running on the soccer field for a big game or jumping
out of the car on the day of a final exam, I always had
the secret hand squeeze to send them my message of love
and support. I learned that when over-sentimental words
from parents are guaranteed to make kids feel ill at
ease, this quiet signal was always appreciated and
Three years ago, my daughter married a
wonderful guy. Before the ceremony, while we were
standing at the back of the church waiting to march down
the aisle, I could hardly look at my little girl, now
all grown up and wearing her grandmother’s wedding veil,
for fear of crying.
There was so much I wanted to
say to her. I wanted to tell her how proud of her I was.
I wanted to tell her that I treasured being her mom, and
I looked forward to all the future had in store for her.
However, most important, I wanted to tell her that I
loved her. But I was positive that if I said even one
word, Carolyn and I would both dissolve into
Then I remembered it - - our secret
signal. I left my place and walked back to Carolyn. As
the organist began to play Ode to Joy, I took Carolyn’s
hand and quickly squeezed it twice. Our eyes met, and
she returned the signal.
There were no tears,
there were no words exchanged, just a secret “I love
you” that I created one sunny afternoon, when I was a
I am no longer a new mother... but a
new grandmother. Today, I was strolling with my little
grandson, Jake. His tiny hand was holding on to my
finger, and I couldn’t help remembering his mother’s
hand in mine over thirty years ago. As we walked, I gave
his hand two quick squeezes and whispered, “I love you.”
He looked up and