Which Whimsical Seuss-like Heart Do You Pick from Your Wardrobe?
Our hearts look rather different from our fanciful doodles, our grannies’ cookie-cutters, our endless trinkets and frippery, even the pretty shape we make joining our thumbs and fingers over our baby bumps. The actual organ sits all blobby and askew in our chests, misshapen and unattractively varied in color and texture, certainly not the deep red symmetry we envision beating out poetry and love.
I think of our hearts as rather Seuss-like. Whimsical factories with intricate veiny paths for tiny trudging workers. Sturdy little elves building away at all the different loves, the big horn-shaped valves throbbing out what’s needed for the day, with perhaps a tiny bit extra for the whosits and whatsits, adorable Loohoos, hapless Sneetch people, incorrigible Things One and Two, and the sad old unheeded Lorax. There are so many different loves to endure for one person.
Just how we hold all this love, how we adjust it endlessly with only that one pulsating, unsightly organ, I have never understood.
I like to imagine I have a big wardrobe full of hearts. Some days I can choose one, almost whimsically, like a brightly colored scarf. Some days it is more complicated. I pretend these hearts are hung in a neat little row on pretty hangers, and tucked into drawers with sweetly scented sachets. There may be just a few careworn, hardy-type hearts scattered about for emergencies when the day calls for more than one. What day doesn’t?
Who can be perfectly tidy when faced with such constant emotional commotion? So my heart wardrobe might actually be a jumbled mess, you may find a stray heart in a wellie or bundled up in a corner with a stale towel, but I prefer the pretty version.
What would be in this lovely wardrobe with pearl knobs? (Sure, it might actually be a mess, but pearl knobs make all the difference.) Well, first I’d have a lace heart, one with light dappling through, making dainty patterns all around it. I’d wear it with a flowy skirt. It would be the heart I’d choose after a long, deep sleep.
I fancy this one would have a secret dandelion function, so as the day wore on and my heart became heavier, I could just take it out and blow away the little aches into wishes with tiny parachutes.
I’d like a heart with spare beats that I could pull out for thumping the bludgeoningly unreasonable with love, love just as thick and unrelenting as their fear and hate. I’d wear that one with combat boots and a purple beret.
A wee notebook heart with a pen attached with string would be handy, writing its own story, scribbling out pain and rewriting joy, however complicated a maneuver that might be. This one would probably look great with a pair of soft old jeans.
I’d need a superbly practical heart, one that slips into standby mode, like my phone or computer. Hard and dull grey, it would never shut down, and would easily reawaken from its numbing limbo with the gentle touch of a friend or a child’s request for perfectly buttered toast. It might be a little smudgy, and best worn with coveralls.
Sometimes I’d really like an M.C. Escher heart. It’s on a sleeve as usual, but whose sleeve? And where does it stop and other hearts and sleeves begin? Does it matter? The kind of heart that would leave newsy bodies confused and frustrated, but would still be beating love at them somewhere within its puzzling illusion. This one has to be worn with sleeves, of course, and the most visually befuddling trousers.
Would a jukebox heart that ran on its own pulse instead of batteries, keeping step with my emotions, providing a pitch perfect soundtrack to my life, be too much to ask, if only I could hear it?
I’d definitely use a phoenix heart. The kind that will rebirth itself, fresh and innocent, at the precise moment all the love gets to be too much, and I am a hair away from complete and utter madness. This one would be a body-hugging, the most flashy and colorful, for making its gorgeous exit before getting back to work, back to the roots of loving.
I’d use a jam jar heart for the sweet preserves of love. Love from children and pets and others with the capacity for unconditional tenderness that is not doled out, withheld or taken back but nourishes and restores. I’d wear it with my favorite pinny, and bake cakes all day.
A short-term memory heart would be good, to be worn with layers upon layers of slippery silks and satin. All it could contain would be simple, crisp love and happiness, with no ability to recall the monumental pain a life with so much heart brings.
Maybe I’d wear a gift of a locket heart around the next of my soul, one that will forever guard and keep undimmed the greatest sensations of love.
When I am weary or strangely sentimental, I can return to the smell of my babies’ heads, their first smiles, my little brother’s chirping a mink of milk, a wink of water, the feel of the rain during my first kiss, the cuddles with my nana in her big warm bed while she whistle-prayed the rosary with her teeth out, the suffering sweet agony of the patiently, lovingly wound pin curls my auntie would put in my hair the night before bingo.
Not sure what I’d wear with that heart. Pajamas, most likely.
I’d guiltily keep a ruthless spider’s web heart that would catch and feed upon whatever it wanted and leave the rest to sort itself out. I might just keep that one for Halloween.
There would have to be a deceptively giant heart, as big as the sky, capable of holding the fruit of a life’s worth of dizzying kisses, soothing embraces, misguided passions, crippling loss, hand-holding under fireworks and constellations, the endless beauty love produces packed into one bottomless Mary Poppins’ bag of a heart.
I’d like my own sacred heart, knitted by a wise old crone, full of sagacity and wit, with a tinkling voice, a kind but knowing cackle, and a giant bosom filled with the wisdom of the world, so I could lay my weary heart and frazzled head on it for a blessed sleep. I’d wear it with the cardigan with the missing button, or with nothing at all.
Finally, I’d like to sometimes use a papier-mâché decoy, a gift crafted by a dear friend, to hold my heart spot open while the rest of my wardrobe, sodden with tears, eaten away by the hate of the world, caked and aching with regret, muddy and overwhelmed with the intricacies of all that is love, gets a nice soak in the tub. Or perhaps a wash in the rain or a minxy steep in few flutes of bubbles with friends.
After their bath, I could air them all out in the sunshine, like a Tibetan prayer flag of hearts, before I hang them back up in a tidy row, tucked gently away again, fresh for tomorrow, with just a few tough ones, covered in spikes or armor, scattered around for emergencies.
If you find one has escaped, and is hiding in your favorite hat box, that is my timid heart. Kindly return her when she has grown suitably lioness-like. Life is too short.
Jennifer Kimmel is a writer, and mother of three wonderful children. She currently resides in a tiny magical town on the top northwest tip of Ireland, and hopes to stay there for the remainder of her days. She enjoys pairing mismatched socks, pretending sheep are mocking her hairstyle, and experimenting with her new waffle-maker.