At best, Valentine’s Day is a sticky wicket. Love and loving is not as easy as sending or receiving a valentine.
Do you remember Valentine’s Day as celebrated in elementary school? Everyone had to send a valentine to each and every classmate. Every classmate to include the thumb-sucker, the nose-picker, and the class bully. None of the cards strewn across your desk seemed to send the right message to the nose-picker. Ranking the cards from best to least attractive, you tried to save the best card for your one true love, and the worst cards for those who deserved no card at all.
Love in elementary school was hard. I don’t remember his name… but I remember that we lived in Breesport, so I must have been in the third or fourth grade. He had a shock of red hair and sat across the classroom near the door. His boots were the main attraction. His brown leather, working man boots laced up from the ankle to the calf to just below his knee and lent him a lumber jack/Canadian Monty mystique. I lusted after those boots and by extension, the boy who wore them.
Did he feel the heat emanating from my desk across the room to his desk? I don’t know. But one day on the playground, running past me, throwing caution to the winds, he told me that he loved me.
He loved me! I was over the moon. The red-headed boy, the boy with the coveted, lace-up, leather, lumber jack boots loved ME! For days, I cradled that thought close to my heart as if it were a baby bird in danger of dying or flying away
I had to hear him say it one more time. Confronting him at recess, I demanded, “Tell me that you love me again.” I may have asked nicely. I don’t remember. I may have asked more than once. I don’t remember. But I do remember that the boy with the beautiful boots refused to repeat his declaration of love. So I punched him.
Which led to my removal from the playground and a trip to the principal’s office where… I don’t remember. I do remember that the worst part of being sent to the principal’s office wasn’t facing the principal; rather, it was the orchestrated long wait outside the office intended to give students plenty of time to imagine the worst possible outcome.
Some years ago on Valentine’s Day (an emotionally dicey day when not everyone is in the arms of a loved one) I remember leading Word for Word, my writing group in North London. Typically, we began with a five-minute warm-up followed by a successively longer, second and third exercise.
I began by saying that as it was Valentine’s Day, we would be writing about love. No sooner had the word “love” left my lips than a dear, elderly woman (although spinster’ is no longer politically correct, she was a spinster in a 1930s context) came unglued. The room froze. Devoted to music and the church, the spinster was meek, mild, and soft-spoken. Her vehemence was totally out of character.
How dare I ask her to write about love! She had never been married or been in love… I should be ashamed of myself! I was gob-smacked. Her words hit me with the weight of wet cement, and it took me a few moments to pull up my socks. At which time I pointed out that love takes many forms: love of books, parents, chocolate, music, nature… and how about patriotic love of country? “The list is endless. And don’t forget our love of a pet?”imals.”
I was tempted to say something about the adoring, unconditional love of a dog, but the spinster was more of a cat person, and a cat’s love is too self-serving to be unconditional. At any rate, my far-ranging inclusive definition of love mollified the spinster, and the writing workshop moved forward.
Taking this blog to heart, expand your definition of love. Take your eye off your non-existent or imperfect love life. Forget the wilted flowers bought half-price at the last minute.
Instead, embrace the beauty encompassed in another sunrise. If that doesn’t work for you, go to the Fremont County Humane Shelter and adopt a dog. Friday we adopted “Oogie,” a black and white Border Collie mix. He’s a pre-teen, and I’m feeling a bit like a pre-teen myself.
I’m in LOVE! Happy Valentine’s Day!