One morning, Liz Petrone’s son burst into tears as he left her arms to board the school bus. Although the bus was driving away, Petrone could see that her son was crying, so she reached out to him and tried to share a gesture that would give him some reassurance of her undying love. “The next morning, we sat at the bus stop together, and I pulled a pen from my coat pocket,” she wrote on Facebook. “I grabbed his wrist, kissed the blue of his veins where the blood we share flows through his veins and drew this heart.”
This time, before she let her son board the bus, she gave him a few words of wisdom that she hoped he could live by. “‘I know it’s hard sometimes out there,’ I told him as the bus pulled up to take him away. I want you to look at this heart every time. It feels like too much. I want you to look, and I want you to remember that no matter what happens out there, someone is here waiting for you to come home. Someone loves you.’ He crossed the road, climbed the bus steps, and I watched this time as his face appeared in the window.”
She continued, “I waited for him to see me, to smile or wave or even to cry, but he never even looked at me. Instead, he looked at his wrist. Know it’s hard out there a lot of the time for a lot of us. I know the holidays can amplify that, and so can the cold, and so can the dark. I do. But maybe what we all need to remember is just that simple. Maybe it’s not a fix, not by a long shot, but it’s a comfort just the same, and comfort can go a long way when you know someone loves you.”
Petrone knew that her son’s anxiety was something that she could not ignore. If she pretended it did not exist, then it might only get worse. Instead, she tried to give her son a tool that he could use to calm his anxieties when he was not in the presence of his devoted mother.
“Maybe it’s the way the seasons shift, a little at a time so slowly until it’s not slow at all anymore, and it’s become cold so fast that you swear you inhaled the warm air of early fall and you exhaled in a foggy smoke of breath into the holidays,” she wrote. “Or maybe it’s just that he’s been asking me every single morning since he started school in September: ‘Mommy, is today Christmas?’ and forever, I’d just laugh and say, oh no, baby, we have a ways to go, except now that’s not so true anymore, and the anticipation is so much I think he might spontaneously combust.”
Now, if you see a child with a heart drawn on their hand, you can recognize it thanks to Petrone’s viral Facebook post.