Steve Jobs said having a kid is like having your heart run around outside your body. The internet tells me he wasn’t the first (and wasn’t a model parent, as if there is such a thing.) That it likely was Elizabeth Stone, a professor at Fordham and the author of three books, who provided the anonymous quote to a friend for an essay in The Village Voice back in 1985.
“Making the decision to have a child–it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
We lived in New York in 1985. Maybe my mom read that and retold it to me, I’m not sure. I do remember her saying something like it to me one night when I was late coming home. Before the days of cell phones, when teenagers roamed free and parents just had to wait.
“You don’t get it. You girls are my heart. And you are out there where I have no idea where you are.”
I get it now.
I have three hearts walking around outside of me, spending more and more time out of my sight. My hearts are vulnerable–as far as I’m concerned. Not that they see it that way, of course. They are growing and exploring and taking risks.
They push boundaries and wander farther each day, with a rhythm that resembles mine but is not the same.
Tonight they were all beside me as we watched a Harry Potter movie. One with a horcrux–a black magic object in which a wizard places a bit of their own cleaved soul so that they can survive the death of their bodies. The wizard just might come back and escape death if the horcrux is deployed correctly.
There are no horcruxes in our world. No earthly way to escape death. But the concept still holds. The hearts we create, biologically or otherwise, they continue. They cause us enormous stress and joy, trepidation and light. They survive us and through them, we live on.
Remembering my mom’s words and the magic of her love and Harry Potter tonight, I’m stuck on this permanence of heart idea. That there can be pieces of us out there, even where we can’t see them. And even when we’re gone, how they remain. Walking, talking, singing your favorite songs, making their own hearts outside of their bodies someday if they so choose, and singing your songs to them.
My hearts are three beating drums in a sleeping band across the hall. I hope they always know how much they are loved, and that no matter how far they roam, their music will always be with me. And mine with them. It’s the real magic of parenthood. Of love strings that bind and stretch, and hold on. Paying no mind to concepts of matter.