I grew up in a deeply religious household that didn’t allow candy at Easter. In fact, we didn’t call it Easter, we called it Resurrection Sunday. To make up for it, my Daddy was good about making sure we got candy on Valentine’s Day. It was always Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. Except the one year it wasn’t and I was so crushed he went out and bought me Jelly Beans the next day. I would climb up into the top most part of my closet and pretend to be far far away–wishing for Spring I suppose–eating my Jelly Beans in the silence that was so hard to find in my house. I would save all the Watermelon flavored ones for last. It was my tradition: and I like tradition, what can I say?
And that tradition of candy on Valentines has continued in our little family of three. We call Easter just Easter, but it’s still a religious holiday not associated with candy for us. And while we didn’t go overboard with the sugar this year (can we say diet??) we’re all trying to be sweet in our own ways. IZ brought home champagne which will be put to good use later. No more needs to be said about that! Boy Wonder made me a handmade card that reads:
You’re probably the best mom a kid could have, that’s why I love you so much! Happy Valentine’s Day!
That made me smile until my cheeks ached. He thought “Wende” sounded more formal, and as it was a formal declaration of his love, I wasn’t addressed as mom. Somehow, that makes it even more special. And, no, I don’t need a holiday to be told I’m loved. But, it’s nice, none the less. Don’t you think?
And me? Well, I passed out small chocolates and sugar hearts and lots of gushy words enveloped in pink and red paper. They know I love them. But it’s nice to tell them on this cold day in February. It makes Winter seem shorter and Spring so much less a dream.
I hope that however you celebrate this day, you are with a loved one. I hope that you are finding ways to say “I love you” that are special and uniquely yours. I’ve had the privilege of calling IZ my Valentine for almost 20 years. We started young! And you know, it never gets old. And so, I offer this love story. After the jump is my first memory of meeting IZ and a Valentine of sorts for him. . . and you.
You walked in. Late, dressed in a two-piece suit. Brown tweed. Tall. So tall and lean and blond. Every strand in place.
A sharp elbow nudges me. I smile, nod, acknowledge that: yes, I saw you walking in the door. The elbow nudger muses, â€œHeâ€™s cute!
â€œMama! I have a boyfriend,â€ I whisper back, trying not to draw the attention of my father sitting two seats down from me. Itâ€™s my aim in life these days to avoid that beady-eye stare he is so famous for. Not here and not now; this is the Sunday service, after-all.
I watch your family find their seats. You and your father stand like perfect bookends to your immaculately dressed mother. Iâ€™m trying to remember the last time someone wore a hat to service and Iâ€™m fairly certain Iâ€™ve never seen anyone your age wearing a suit. Iâ€™m not the only one watching your family.
â€œWhat!â€ rolling my eyes.
â€œHeâ€™s really cute!â€ she says again.
â€œHeâ€™s BLOND. I donâ€™t date blonds, mother!â€ I say a little too loudly. People shuffle in their seats in front of me, giggling.
â€œNever-the-less,â€ she continues, â€œYou will go and greet him after the service has concluded.â€ My father leans over and gives us both the look. Good, she can bear his disapproval for once.
What has occurred to my mother is now beginning to be born in the imaginations of the rest of the congregation. The Sound of Music is swelling in their collective consciencesâ€”â€œyou are sixteen, going on seventeenâ€¦â€ You are to play Rolf to my Liesl.
Under the piercing glare of my mother and amused glances of the old ladies in the congregation, I make my way to extend a peace offering. Not so much for you as to pacify them. There is no reason to add â€œinhospitableâ€ to the ever-expanding list of my character defects.
â€œHi, my name is Wendeâ€¦â€ I begin my welcome announcement, sticking out my hand to shake yours. You take my hand and strangely, you donâ€™t let go. Is that my sweaty palm or yours? Even stranger still, you say nothing while I invite you to youth group this evening. No words, no sounds, just you looking too deeply into my eyes.
â€œHeâ€™d be happy to attend,â€ your mother finally answers for you.
â€œOk, thenâ€¦â€ I blush as I leave, â€œNice meeting you.â€
I can see them watching me, all these old ladies who have known me since I was a second grader. I can hear their minds turning. â€œOh the possibilities,â€ they are thinking. From the looks on their faces they are as equally impressed by your visage as my mother. I can hear the whispers before they begin and there will be no fighting the rumor mill once it starts. Itâ€™s as if they have had a simultaneous vision of the future. The clouds parted, sunlight spilled out, and shimmering before them was a vision of our joined destiny. Lord knows they are hard at work already petitioning the gates of Heaven to make it so.
â€œAre you happy now?â€ I ask my mother on our way out of the building.
â€œYes,â€ she says with a smile creeping into her voice.
â€œI do have a boyfriend, you know.â€ Iâ€™m not giving up so easily.
â€œYes,â€ she answers with certainty, â€œI know.â€