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Tiny Love Stories: ‘My Family Owned Your House’


Yezha, my dad’s old dog, was missing one leg and all her teeth. Weeks before my son and I visited them in Warsaw, she stopped eating. My dad never let my childhood dog in the house. Yet, for Yezha, he’d fry naleśniki crêpes in butter and feed her the cheese filling when it cooled. He’d buy cabbage rolls at the grocery store, and we’d cheer when bites of meat stuffing made it past her gums. “Good Yezha,” we’d coo. My dad, twice divorced, grew up poor under communism. Wasting food was unthinkable. But he’d do anything to keep her alive. — Milena Nigam

It was an endearing detail when we bought our Los Angeles home: “Jack,” “Eva” and “1977” carved into the mantle above the fireplace. Years later, an email arrived: “My family owned your house. I had a few questions,” wrote Carl, who wanted to surprise his wife, Iris, with the mantle her grandfather carved. (Her grandparents, Jack and Eva, would host friends in the den, now our living room.) As a romance author, I was wooed by the grand gesture. We arranged an exchange. The mantle now hangs in their Florida home, ready for Iris and Carl to add their names. — Jennifer Chen

Did I want her, or did I want to be her? My evangelical upbringing demanded the latter. We met in college. She was brilliant, beautiful, a patient chemistry tutor and instant friend. When she graduated, I visited her at her new apartment. We shared a bed. She slept; I fidgeted as the truth sank into my bones. Terrified, I disappeared from her life without explanation. Years later, I apologized but withheld any reason. She forgave quickly, gently — knowingly? Now a proud queer woman, I wish I could tell her I’m grateful for the role she played in my self-discovery. — Abbey Driscoll

When she was 4, my daughter experienced the death of her grandfather, babysitter and dog. Life, she quickly learned, could be heartbreaking. Soon after, she began collecting rocks, hiding them in her shoes at daycare to show me later. She thought she’d found diamonds, but it was only gravel. Maybe I shouldn’t have done this, but I bought a bag of tumbled stones to plant around the yard. She found every tiger’s eye, green agate and red jasper. With each, she’d rush inside, sweaty-palmed, offering it to me. And I’d confirm, repeatedly, what she had discovered: Life is also beautiful. — Charlotte Pence

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