This morning my daughter looked at me and said, “Daddy? Last year you asked me if I would be your Valentine.” “Sweetie, you’re my Valentine every day of the year!” She was unmoved. Mine was not the right response. I did the only right thing I could. I asked her. “Sweets? Will you be my Valentine?” “Yes, Daddy. I will.”
I told a friend yesterday that I would be claiming Valentines today. “I’m not asking,” I said. “I’m out and out claiming. Consider yourself claimed!” She knows that I have a way of being over-the-top with people I care about. She took my comment in stride. It was late. I was tired, and punchy. I often say that after midnight I turn into a pumpkin. It was after midnight. I know, the proper analogy to the Cinderella story, is for a man to turn back into a mouse. It’s the carriage that turns into a pumpkin. However, I am not a mouse.
This morning I posed the following question on my Facebook page, “The people in your life who cherish you for you, as you are, regardless of your or their mood, are: a. Being paid to be nice? b. Complete fools? c. Confusing you for someone else? d. Your Valentine every day of the year? Or ___.” Most Tuesday’s I post a question. I always have a blank. It’s for the wild card. I believe in wild cards. Then, I added the comment, “Thank you for being my Valentines.” Yes. Jim Wallis of Sojourners is my Valentine. So is the President (I even told him that I “like” him). I’ve liked Vin Diesel for a long time. George Takei? He sends me funny pictures. Anne Rice just goes on and on, about everything! Goodness gracious. It’s like she’s family. Of course, they don’t know me, not really. All the people who do, and still cherish me for who I am, as I am? They’re people of substantial courage. They’re the people I’m intimate with. They, are my Valentines.
Valentines Day, like love, is fraught with anxiety. We’re aware of our flaws in a way no one else can be. We’re Cinderella, unable to imagine that the glass slipper, fits. Even so, we want to be loved. There is part of us that longs for Neruda’s words to become incarnate in an other:
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
One of the most wonderful things children teach us, is how easy this is to make real. If I whack my elbow, and your response is to kiss it better? Well, there are immediate space issues. Immediate. At work, there are HR issues. Besides that, it’s plain weird. Kissing your child’s elbow is another matter all together. The moment your lips touch their boo-boo, crying stops. Tears dry. You are so close that the ache of their bruise becomes the sweetness of your kiss. Your ordinary gesture of care, is not only sufficient, it is transformative.
My claiming of Valentines is meant in the same way. We spend so much time looking for the one that we lose sight of the truth that we all are that one. Love, as our children teach us, is the simplest of things. Make no mistake, I’m not advocating that we begin kissing each other’s elbows. Wouldn’t that be a sight? No. I’m suggesting that we take the ordinary things we do and see them as they are, as acts of love. So. Did you listen to me when I was struggling? You were loving me, when you did. When I thanked you, I was telling you that I love you. When I asked you how you were? That was my way of saying I love you, again. When I say I’m thankful for your support. I’m acknowledging your willingness to be intimate with me. It’s another way I let you know I love you. We do these things all the time. This is how we love. It’s never perfect, though it can approach perfection for short periods. Mostly, it’s the most ordinary of experiences. Imperfect, yes. That is as it can only be. After all, we love, as we are.