Valentine’s Day arrives fraught with expectations. Flowers, small boxes, dinner, proposals, dates, glorious reservations. Cards are expected, particularly from undeclared suitors. It is a deadline for daters. Most men do not comprehend the vast emotional footage that Valentine’s Day claims in the imaginations of young women. Women do some serious score keeping on this day. Even if they act cool about it, they wish to be lavished with love and adoration—the more publicly, the better. If there are any men out there harboring the misconception that Valentine’s Day is a mutual celebration of love, allow me to correct you.
I have thought long and hard about Love. I remember sitting in first-grade Religion class, in my scratchy, Black Watch plaid uniform and oxford shoes, learning—with pure shock—about the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve lived in pure bliss (love). Lions did not want to eat lambs. Nobody had to do work (homework), food was plentiful and nobody was embarrassed about being completely naked. The concept of Original Sin floored me. As a seven-year-old student of Catholicism and reader of fairy tales, I knew true love was The Big Thing. I knew that if I did not find it, I might miss my life.
Fast forward to my teens. Boys said they loved me, but with five brothers I had a healthy skepticism about that plea. Woodstock came along and seemed like a great idea!! Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, caught Catholic me off guard with: “…and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” And let’s not forget Love Story and the “Love” sculpture. The lyric “Love is just a four-letter word” jangled around in my brain. I danced myself silly at parties to “True Love.” But the Garden was completely eluding me. True love, after all, is not a wild dance; it is a destination of many paths.
In college, I took a revelatory course titled “Intellectual History.” It was transformative. We dissected the Aha moments from Rousseau to Heisenberg in physics. To give you the Cliffs Notes regarding the Aha moment: It begins with an obsessive problem, after which arrives a eureka moment, normally when the mind is otherwise preoccupied. (Word has it that Einstein solved the problem of relativity while riding a bus.) I applied my concerns about missing the transcendental and illuminating truth of transformative love. While I was worrying myself sick, I had the most amazing dream in my life.
I was teaching our youngest brother to ride a two-wheeler bicycle, the usual rusty Schwinn, on a grassy knoll where a spill would not draw blood. In the dream, I am holding the saddle to keep Charlie’s balance. I can see the veins on my wrist bulging, while I am running and balancing, as I glance to see my brother standing on the pedals wobbling over the handlebars. I let him go and he brilliantly flew away. The beautiful thought came to me and woke me up: “Love is the energy that makes work painless.” That made sense to me in the morning and has stayed with me for the rest of my life. Love takes you outside of yourself. Love is energy. The memories of the timeless flashes in your life, when you have traveled completely outside of yourself for other people, are the real pearls we string together and celebrate on Saint Valentine’s Day.
Now that I am a matron, I do not want to ignore Valentine’s Day, nor do I expect a man to throw himself at my feet. No, at this stage of life, on Valentine’s Day I will lavish love on my children, dear friends, and my ancient parents, who currently live to open mail. It is my turn to express adoration, without a petty thought of what I will receive.
Valentine’s Day is an evolving reminder of the grandest dream—the greatest story ever told. We should do it every day, but we are busy. Holidays and rituals are reminders. We are not in the Garden, hard as we try in our different ways. On this day, we should remember not what our boyfriends fumbled, but the most beautiful moments of love in our lives.
These are mine:
Watching a crocus bloom, right in front of my eyes.
All the beautiful babies my Mother brought home from the hospital (even if they were boys!).
Hysterical laughter with my brothers and friends, relishing pure nonsense.
Seeing the redwoods in California, the Milky Way, meteorite showers, the ruins of Ephesus.
Growing a garden.
The sweetness of all my dogs.
Falling in love, with so many boys.
Telling a whopper of a lie, out of pure loyalty.
Telling the truth, out of pure loyalty.
The first sight of my baby girls.
Cooking beautiful dinners, setting the table, for long lovely evenings.
There is so much more, but it would be too much.
Remember to share your love every day.