I love Valentine’s Day. I always have. It never mattered to me whether I had a beau or not. I especially liked making valentines for all my classmates when I was in elementary school. Even though I was probably the worst crafter in our grade, (well next to Ricky Pulley and Mike Brown. I was always surprised when those tough guys showed up with their little mailboxes decorated with red and pink paper hearts just like the rest of us. I couldn’t imagine them living somewhere with a mom who would buy them doilies to decorate their boxes with. I could only ever imagine them taunting smaller boys on the playground and twitching up bigger girls skirts as they got off the bus) I loved making the little mailbox that would hold all those valentines at the party. My mother was a poor crafter too. And after my dad died she worked full time, so making the valentine box always seemed to sneak up on her, because she was frazzled during the week and since she was a lousy crafter she put it off on the weekend. Every year she would say in a really bright voice, like she has maybe had a real inspiration, “Hey honey let’s cover a shoe box with foil and you can cut out hearts and glue them on that”
I always acted Ike I too thought this was a novel and exciting approach. And sometimes, (because crummy crafter kids don’t need construction paper), when there was nothing but typing paper in the house, she would go up and get me scraps from her fabric box and I would cut hearts our of flowery red fabric or pink flannel from my Christmas nightgown. My mailbox was always a mixture of the glitz of aluminum foil and the more tender homespun from the sewing room.
I didn’t care. I couldn’t glue or cut worth a shit either and so my hearts were often shaped like eggs with tails and the glue oozed out along the sides, because I believed strongly that if a little were good then a lot would surely be better. This rule was tested year after year when my box had gloppy dried pearls of glue along side Lisa Thompson’s box, which like her ponytail was neat and perfect in every way. She had shiny white butcher paper on her box, and lovely doily hearts backed by bigger red and pink ones. Her ponytail next to my mop of wild curly hair was the perfect metaphor for all of our hands-on projects.
No matter I loved the whole shebang, gloppy dried glue and all. And when I had kids of my own we made valentines endlessly for the whole month of February. We ate heart shaped waffles and put red hots on the mashed potatoes. I spent the whole month humming the words to “that’s the story of, that’s the glory of love” My kids still know the whole thing by heart twenty odd years later. They groan when I start off, but by the finale I am proud to say they are always right there with me.
And over the years, when I bring out the birch vase and fill it with dry branches which we wrap with little pink and red felt kisses for the desk in the library and hang the felt garlands of hearts that are recycled from old sweaters, the conversations often turn to love. “What is the story of love anyway”, Hannah asked one year. Other years it was Benjamin or Eli who had questions about love, theirs or someone elses’s. And I have always had answers. The words may change from year to year, but the answer is always the same.
There is the perfect duet that happens in our kitchen when John and I hustle around to get a dinner on the table. He may be cooking the pasta while I am making the peanut sauce. He might be cutting up the chicken while I search for the garlic sauce when our hips bump and we both grin and before you know it we have plates of hot steaming Thai food on the table and someone else turns off the TV while we ask about Eli’s math test, or hear about the teacher who farted right out loud in class. When I come to bed after John and it is fifteen below outside there will be a warm heating pad on my side of the bed right where my feet go. My car is always miraculously cleaned and warmed before I have to leave for work, and John’s grandmother’s nut roll appears on every holiday morning just like when he was little, because Grandma taught me before she died, so my John will always have it on every holiday as long as I am around. When the kids came home once and found us painting the kitchen because there had been a little kitchen fire, it didn’t matter who did it or what happened. We got out the paint and the brushes, made a whole bunch of nachos and dug into the food and the job. John is the first person I call when I hear something funny and at night we always fall asleep touching. And lately when Eli got into a little spot of trouble for looking on a website for math help, which his parents thought might be cheating, his sister called with the website information and all the notes from the curriculum guide about how important it was for students to use the site for homework help. And last weekend Benjamin and John dug Hannah’s new beau’s car out of a ditch. Never mind that he is 6’7″ or that it was 7 o clock in the morning on a Saturday and everybody was half asleep,. Hannah came back in for a shovel and went back out with two men besides.
A good marriage carries love forward into the world. It expands and touches the people who come near.
And so that’s the story of…..that’s the glory of…love.