I’ve been ruminating on love for several weeks. What is it, how do we know when it’s real, all those deep things that drive you crazy and take you nowhere. And then I read a great post about reality that made me laugh. And you know what? That’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. Love, laughter, and joy. And as much as I’d like to forget all the deep, heartwrenching questions today and have some fun, every sentence still seemed to end with a question mark. I need to be reminded of what I know instead of listening to what I feel. Emotions can be misleading.
Many years ago, there was a flashing set of blue eyes under a shock of jet black hair that mesmerized me. Every time I passed them in the college halls, I felt like magnets pulled at me. They caught mine and smiled playfully. But I sensed gleaming daggers under the surface – and held my ground. I knew that something that beautiful, that held that much power over me, had the ability to be dangerous. I soon found out from a trusted friend that this person delighted in his conquests, which were legendary in the weight room.
Today, there are no flashing eyes pulling at me and no enchanted glade from Little Mermaid with a bird choir singing “Just Kiss the Girl!” Damn. That would be fun. So what do I have this Valentine’s Day?
A herd of puppies underfoot – puppies playfully clambering over my feet, fighting with my pants leg, chewing my fingers and licking my face. When they’re tired, a pair of them will cuddle in my neck, all warm with only occasional kisses. My favorites are the husky-looking tri-colored one and the soft little brown runt. They are always the first to notice when I try to sneak past the mound of slumber to do some laundry. Why must puppies pile up to sleep? It never matters which is on the bottom or strewn across the top, all are equally happy to be together. I give their sleepy tummies a little scritch to let them know they are loved while they are here.
Babies of all types are good for loving. One of my best memories is of one day spent in a rocking chair in a drafty shack next to the Nimitz Freeway (think San Francisco earthquake – there was a nasty crack on the backside of the fireplace left from that day, 2 years before we rented the place). My infant son was sick, all stuffy and unable to breathe if he laid down, not able to nurse or sleep. So I rocked, sang and cooed to him, from sunup to deep into the night, with only a couple short breaks when I tried to lay him down so I could go pee and get something to drink. I came running back both times because the minute he tipped at all below completely vertical, his entire breathing system slimed over and suffocated him. I just knew I was the most important person in the world, doing the most important thing I could possibly do. Food wasn’t important to me, and I didn’t want to read or watch TV. I had a warm baby nestled into my neck who needed me for the very air he breathed. By that night, he was able to sleep with his head on my arm, and in the morning he was well. Seventeen years later, that is still my most precious memory of motherhood. It was tender and quiet and I had nothing else that called me away.
Rarely is the house quiet anymore. But every morning starts the same way when my little girl wakes up and calls to me. The bed is all warm and she wants me to cuddle her – even though she doesn’t want to actually be touched. Every morning I hug her tightly to me while she struggles and complains happily, “Not so tight!” So I push her away to the other side of the bed. She giggles and says, “No mom, cuddle me.” I have yet to figure out her definition of cuddles, but we have giggled this way every morning while I tease her about wanting what she doesn’t want. After a few minutes, she gives me a big kiss on the cheek, climbs over me out of the bed and moves on with her day. She couldn’t start her day properly without knowing she is loved. And I will treasure these moments, too, as long as I live. We all want to be loved, and I find I am just as blessed by this time as she.
Is this all Cupid’s arrows, butterflies, and twitterpated birds? No. But then, neither is life. Ups and downs, adventure and drudgery, lived one moment at a time. It is up to me to keep my eyes and heart open to each experience and find the love inside – given, received, and treasured like the queen’s jewels in the chest of my heart.