Everyday Valentines

Ah, Valentine?s Day is with us, the day of hearts and roses. The sun, surrounded by a sky of blue tinged with peach-brushed hues, rose so sweetly and expectantly this morning. It seemed to smile with particular delight on this one day of the year?one preciously tender day out of three hundred sixty-five?when we honor those we hold dearest to our hearts. This is the day that fragrant armfuls of velvety, crimson roses?symbols of romance and love?cross thresholds under smiling, eternal skies. Heart-shaped boxes of decadent chocolates move from bearer?s arms to delighted fingertips?and then to eager lips. Pink and red-hued notecards send tender greetings to lovers, friends, and family. This is, indeed, the most notably affectionate of holidays.

I wonder to myself if it is possible that Valentines are to be found every day, in the most ordinary of moments. My mind spirals through years past, from early schooldays through the sweetest of adult romances, and I hold delightful memories of bygone Valentines to my own heart. It is not the glittery cards, the boxes of sweets, or the bountiful flowers I recall with such delight, but the lessons of love?the love within the Valentine?s everyday embrace. Tendrils of reminiscence take me through my own recollection of love-filled Valentines?

I am in elementary school, a pouty-eyed child with cupid?s mouth and bowl-cut hair. I carefully scribble Valentines to each of my classmates on tiny, glitter-laden cards. In turn, my schoolmates pop their own assortments into the handcrafted ?heart bags? we stitched together with yarn and rosy red construction paper. Each card is read with childlike care as I ask myself, ?Who loves me, who loves me not?? Through hopeful, childish eyes, I look into the unknown world of love and Valentines.

Here I am at the steps of junior high and smiling at my first Valentine?s Day in California. A knock at the classroom doors brings pink carnations from would-be boyfriends and steadfast girlfriends. In my wondering adolescent brain, I secretly ponder, ?Is she with the most carnations the most loved? Is that how it works? Oh, someday I would like to be the girl with the biggest ever bunch of pink carnations.? Still, I am content with my handful of sweet carnations, for there are some girls and boys who have none at all. There is much to be learned about love and Valentines.

In the blink of an eye, high school is upon me. I haven?t tasted love, but romance and budding passion had found me. Pink-toned carnations had faded, and red roses have taken their place. Ever curious, I begin my search for this elusive thing called real love. With a whisper into my best girlfriend?s ear, I say, ?I think I am in love with Billy. I just melt at his smile. Oh, look at those dark eyes. And that motorcycle.? As she shakes her head with a knowing look, her locks of her curly blonde hair dance against her beautiful face. Erika, the truest of friends, is much wiser than her years. I look into her blue eyes and smile impishly into the pensive gaze that sees into love, into eternity. She knows that love is not to be had in wild smiles and wayward Valentines. Her spirit understands the importance of friendship, of everyday Valentines.

Off at college, there are cascades of roses and orchids upon my desktop, but where is love? With too much to do and mountains to learn, I flit through the years as a butterfly. Unexpectedly, ever so undoubtedly, there he is?love?sitting at the table with me. With his unruly black hair, sea blue eyes, and devilish grin, I forget about roses. I am his. Every day, I am his Valentine. I can?t turn back the hands of time, but if I could, I might have stayed. Yet love?his love?continues to teach me through this very day. Although he is no longer on this Earth, I smile as I feel him and the gifts of his strong and true everyday Valentines.

Marriage is upon me. I am so young, too young. I find it is no bed of roses, but there are delights. A diamond rests on the ring finger of my left hand, and I stare at it in confusion. I wonder why I didn?t know that love could be so hard?so very, very hard. There are few flowers, and chocolates are rarer still. Yet I smile, so deeply and truly, for I would not turn back the hands of time; to do so would erase the wonders of these times?the births, epiphanies, and the handmade works of the heart. Oh, the years hold so many priceless, everyday Valentines.

Ah, now I am here, fearless and on fire. Bouquets of flowers again grace my world, and I am charmed. My eyes and my spirit warm in deep appreciation. I am blessed by the love that sends chocolates and delicate cards to my door. Yet, it is the gifts from the sea?the occasional heart-shaped rocks?that I favor. My world is graced with tokens of friendship and love. I now see that there is romance, there is ardor, and there are Valentines?true Valentines. I understand love differently, more fully, than ever before. Now I know love, and I am love.

I awake to my first adult Valentine?s Day for one; it is a day I create to show myself love, and it is bliss. I spend the morning surprising friends and loved ones with small treasures, mementos of my love. I smile as I embrace the day, the glorious love-filled day. I return home to create a splendid dinner?just for me. I am touched deeply by the day?s beauty and grace. I had delivered flowers, chocolates, and the sweetest of notes to others, but I needed none. From dawn to dusk, through simple everyday tasks, I was my own Valentine.

Time moves on. I find myself, once again, staring into a set of blue eyes. This British gaze is soft, of ancient, childlike seas. He brings chocolates and delights from his homeland and a bouquet of roses from the shop down the hill. He brings a deep-hearted smile and the warmest of embraces. We share dinner and thoughts. We are one as we talk, as we listen. Our hands touch across the table, and we know that we have shared many simple, yet exquisite, every day Valentines. Pup is jealous; he moans petulantly, a poor-me-hound-dog whimper. We rub Pup?s copper head as we laugh in unison. And there is love. Here, right now, here is love. Though oceans come between us, he is my friend, he is a forever Valentine.

Today, I look through the landscape of love that shines around me. Not just on Valentine?s Day, but every day. A couple passes by, their feet move in lovers? synchronicity; she whispers into his ear, and he turns to kiss her with his eyes alight. There is love. Two mothers chat near the corner, baby strollers at hand, and they kiss each other?s cheeks farewell. Such is love. I stop to see my mother, a Valentine at my side, and love overcomes me as I gaze upon her sweet face. I massage her feet and paint her toenails a wild passion pink. I am taken by the abundance of love. Two leggy adolescents share a soda and a song; they giggle and dance, oblivious to those who pass by. Humming in tune, their arms link; they share hearts. They know love. A weary-eyed man rushes from the store, three enormous bouquets in his hands. I meet his gaze and he smiles a heartfelt smile. Here is love. Outside the market, shoppers pause to inquire and offer donations for a women?s homeless shelter. They offer gestures of compassionate love. Oh, the power of love. A harried mother of three pauses in her frenzied pace; she stoops and kneels down to listen to her youngest child?s call. The little one smiles as momma listens intently. Tiny arms reach out for an embrace, and momma leans closer to enfold the child. She is an icon of love. Such is the strength and beauty of love. A client arrives at my office, downcast and weary, but finds hope?and leaves a bit lighter. Oh, yes, here is love. The phone rings as I prepare for my day, and I smile as my sister?s bright voice reaches out to me. ?Just checking on you,? she quips in her big-sister-big-friend way. I feel her loving warmth from 550 miles away, and I know that there is love. Always love?every day?in the simplest, truest, and most ordinary of ways.

In this humble, sweet light, every day is Valentine?s Day. Every love is a Valentine. Every moment, every being, is an opportunity waiting to be held, to be kissed, and to be loved. Yes, here is love?sweet, precious love?in these everyday Valentines.

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