For someone who has been celebrating all 28 days of February for the past century, I confess, this year I’ve been a complete amateur. Like a hostess who shows up four hours late to her own party — this 2014, the month began with a round table of wonderful friends, tea, and at least 20 other favorite things, and still I entered it in a dreamy stupor.
Oh, there were valentines. Tied together with earnestness and heart-studded ribbon. Like this goody bag of cute.
But I was off those first few days. Too quiet. Too calm. My energy (usually at high voltage mid-January) was – in a word – static. And then fear began to set in. Was this an “aging” thing? A world weariness? Had I finally reached the apex of my existence and surrounded myself with only the easiest people to love — rendering the annual, Herculean effort to indiscriminately love meaningless?
On Tuesday night, that first week, a great snow fell. It fell on top of a preexisting layer, and the mess we all woke to on Wednesday was profound. Thankfully there had been snow plows. But consequently, all drive ways were plugged with an extra foot and a half of wet, hardening slush. Not a job for my parents, no.
It was worse in person. Five-foot me staggered under the weight, catapulting each shovelful above my elbows. Soon the drifts were shoulder length, and it got primitive quickly. I developed a stabbing, ice-pick method with my shovel, proceeded to pick up giant, loosened pieces by hand to hurl. I was finally at the end of the driveway, when a neighbor I have never spoken to before, crossed the street. Tall. Retired Marine. “I saw you bustin your balls out here, and thought I’d give you a hand,” he muttered.
As we shoveled, he asked how my father was doing. Asked if he played cribbage. Asked what he does during the day. Told me he himself spends most of his time on the computer playing Solitaire. I listened, fascinated, because the truth is we know nothing about our private, predominately retired neighbors across the street. Though I can deduce that our neighbor next door, who walks her dogs their way, occasionally fills them in.
Still, some conjectures were based on observation. He thought I was a musician. My mind flashed to all the times I’m seen, tossing my violin into the car. He also hadn’t known my mom is recently retired – perhaps owning to her busy social life and perpetually youthful beauty. My mind began to vibrate with excitement and activity. My heart started to swell. And suddenly there was light (!), and an angel somewhere whistled hallelujah.
Love. Unexpected sometimes. Beauty. In many faces. Kindness. Ever indispensable. It was in this moment, talking with my coarse and wonderful neighbor across the street that Valentine’s Month began to show its first signs of blooming. And bloom, bloom it did.
Somehow it won’t do to catalogue the many heart shapes that have appeared since, no need for a precise list. But some highlights?
Gigi Jay in a laundry bin.
My best, most accomplished score on Scrabble.
These spring flowers on my windowsill.
Noticing one of dad jay’s heart medications actually has a heart etched on it.
Mini flags from my sweet friend, decorating some valentine cupcakes.
Cootie-catcher valentines, coming to a mailbox near you.
A magical unicorn bath, which I soaked in for at least one hour.
This generous orchid, which re-bloomed on the 14th precisely.
I’m feeling extra tender about this particular February, because it will be the last in my more familiar circumstances. Soon, everything will change. Mostly for the good. The better. But these days, I’m primarily concerned with absorbing and savoring the now that I love so much.
If you’ve noticed me missing here, I’m so sorry. I haven’t been whisked away by wedding plans, promise. But I have been sitting in a dense cloud of thought and memories for the past month. Trying to acknowledge all the things that I will miss. Imprinting everything as it is in my mind. Spending time with people who are my world.
But Valentine’s Month – the special holiday that always has a message for me to learn. This year brought to me, to my running nose and chapped cheeks. An entire holiday born, bloomed by a man with a shovel and some kindness. From him to me to you, I love you.