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Superman and me--New Year's 2009

I must tell you of a most sweet, intimate observing I experienced on Sunday. It happened while shopping with my friend in Durham.

We were at the mall, walking store to store, both searching for clothes that flatter, whisper style and class without looking matronly and certainly not dowdy or frumpy (a near impossible quest when you add ‘original’ and ‘reasonably priced’ to the mix).

With each shop we browsed, I couldn’t help but notice the surprising number of men, traipsing behind women, following loved one around rack after rack, scanning sweater or skirt options, mostly remaining mute with an occasional nod of the head or, “Uh-huh,” “Sure,” and “I like that,” thrown in for good measure.

As I observed each shopping couple, I smiled within. Then a new thing happened. I noticed more closely and my heart warmed to each moment I witnessed. Thinking back on it now, I almost blush at my intrusive noticing. One man stood in the check out line, holding his woman’s place while she continued searching for last minute treasures. Another man (whom I happened to have several chances at observing, as we frequented the same stores) carried packages and seemed to actually be helping her decide, holding up shirt after shirt, “What about this one?” he’d ask. Her face wore the answer and he’d either put it back or hand it to her for fitting. With each successive store, I noticed him juggling one more bag.

One store we browsed had at least four shopping couples in it at the time. Two of the men rested on the “waiting man” chairs while their wives tried on clothes. One held his wife’s large white leather purse down at one side, browsing smart-looking business suits in-between her ins and outs from dressing room to him. “I like this one,” she announced, walking as though on runway with him at the end, “but I’m just not sure about the size. I am losing weight, after all. It’s slightly snug now, but won’t be in a month or more.” He smiled at her a bit nervously not knowing at all how to respond. Maybe the smile would be enough.

The fourth man was not a man at all. He was a 12 (maybe 13) year-old boy. While most the other stores had 13 year-old (and older) boys lined up along the front store window ledges playing on their (or their mothers’) smart phones, this boy was busy helping Mom find the perfect shirt. At one point, while in the dressing room, she called his name, flung a shirt over the door and asked him if he could please find that shirt in a small. Without hesitation, without head-cock or rolling his eyes, he took the shirt and set to work finding his momma the right size. He must have done this several times, before she finally settled on her perfect shirt. Not once did I see this young man get flustered, whine or complain about being in a woman’s clothing store, helping his mother in her own shopping quest.

Beautiful love expressed without saying a word.

With all this noticing, my own mind drifted back to a time almost two years ago now, and an intimate shopping experience shared with Superman. Our Ethiopian babes had been home for six months. I was not quite out of shock from this new home-side of adoption, but regaining enough ground to realize I had become a shell of a person. I felt quite hollow, alone and at the beginning of my grappling with grief and guilt. Superman, who has always been able to see through to the inside of me, recognized my lifeless state and decided to romance me for New Year’s.

He bought us tickets to the NC Symphony’s Extravaganza—an all-inclusive, overnight stay at Raleigh’s downtown Marriott, complete with cocktails, symphony performance, dinner and dancing our way into 2010.

My response when he told me his plans? “Oh. Well, what will I wear?” (if you knew me at all, you would know my response was more alien-like than me-like).

“Let’s go shopping,” he quickly replied, allowing me no excuse. “We’ll leave early, get lunch out, and find you a dress.”

Over lunch, somehow, my not-so-expressive man, managed to pour deeply into my emptiness with words I still treasure like the college letters wrapped round in red ribbon, tucked deep in my closet. And then, he took me shopping; following me from store to store, carrying my purse, either sitting in the waiting man chairs or running to find correct sizes.

The way he said, “I love you,” on that afternoon shopping excursion was as soul reviving as the evening’s extravagance itself. In fact, maybe even more so. Remembering back, I now realize how in the space of a few hours of, what could be viewed as meaningless dress hunting, God gave me a special grace to keep moving forward. What funny and creative ways He finds to express His sweet love.

See why I blush thinking of those men saying “I love you” without words? I was witness to their expressions of affection, commitment and cherished affirmations towards the women in their lives. A witnessing causing me to pause, smile and give thanks for the many ways he says, “I love you.”