Typically, Valentine’s Day doesn’t do much for me. It’s always seemed a day of forced love; a day when those without a significant other feel their loneliness threefold, and those who have one are made to believe their love must be optimal this day or they’ve failed somehow. It brings out the stubborn little girl in me. I don’t want to HAVE to turn on the love faucet on a designated day. Love is something that should flow naturally, even if in uneven, uncertain increments, throughout the year. And yet, I don’t want to be a Valentine’s Day Grinch, either, a downer of a person murmuring heart-shaped “Hum-bugs” throughout the day. If it feels right, I am happy to celebrate a day that is truly well-intended by some, even if exploited by the candy, cards and flower industries. I can take the good of it, like the guilt-free chocolate indulging it allows, or the reminder of the blessing of loving and being loved.
Perhaps my Valentine’s Day dread comes in part from a memory I have of my husband’s and my early years together. Intent on joining the throngs who dine out on this day, and living in a city where dinner reservations are rarely accepted, we went in search of an eating establishment one fine Valentine’s Day evening. Five stops and at least an hour later (and with ravaging stomachs to boot), we begrudgingly settled on a local burger joint, an experience that was a far cry from the romantic dinner I’d envisioned. Ever since then, we’ve tended to downplay Valentine’s Day.
This year, however, we’re jumping back on the Valentine’s Day bandwagon for just a few hours. You see, as part of our kids’ school raffle, we happily won a $100 gift certificate to a wonderful restaurant here in town — Sarello’s — and will be eating there tomorrow evening. We’re really just using Valentine’s “weekend” as an excuse to redeem our gift certificate, but whatever it takes to escape the kids for a few hours, right? And without the guilt of overspending — what could be better?
The real reason I was eager to do this post, though, was to share this photo, borrowed from my summer files. It was taken in the yard of our dear Grandpa John, who left us this past October. A neighbor had brought over a yellow lab puppy, which reminded me so much of our own yellow lab who died of cancer quite a few years ago, before our three youngest were born or aware. Watching the kids stop dead in their tracks from wild play to congregate around the puppy, seeing their gentle touches and excited eyes, realizing his calming effect on them — it all brought on a sudden feeling of deep serenity to me.
To me, this visual exemplifies the true intent behind Valentine’s Day — the gentle, innocent acts of love that come to us in the most unexpected and often unplanned moments. It’s an image I’d like to hang on to for a while, and one I’m happy to share with you as well.
Wishing you the kind of love that springs up seemingly out of nowhere, squirming like a new puppy and catching you blissfully unaware…