I’m not usually a fan of Hallmark card holidays. Mother’s and Father’s Day? Meh. St. Patrick’s Day? Guess that’s more of a parade holiday, but still, meh. Teacher’s Day? Administrative Professional's (aka Secretary's) Day? Nothing.
But Valentine’s Day. Oh, Valentine’s Day is a little bit different for me. Given its proximity to my birthday (as in, The-Day-Before), I have always thought of Valentine’s Day as my extra birthday day. All that pink and red splashing around in the heart of a dark, cold February? That’s for me, thank you very much.
When I was growing up, my mother would leave my sister and me Valentine’s Day cards and chocolates on the kitchen table in the morning. It was, for me, a portend of what was to come the next day – a tasting, if you will, of a wonderful birthday present. And since anyone who knows me knows that my bloodstream is infused with chocolate, it was an appropriate amuse bouche.
Today, a day away from a big birthday, I think of Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to think of all the little valentines that exist in my life. Not so much the people I love – my husband, children, family and friends without whom nothing would matter. I am thankful for them every minute of every day.
No, today I am thinking of the little pockets of grace that make my life more beautiful. Those random places and things that touch me, feed me and make me smile. So here is my valentine ode to that which makes me happy.
- Casablanca. Without a doubt, the greatest movie every made. We are going to see it on the big screen this weekend to celebrate my birthday. So thank you too, to the American Film Institute, which decided to locate its flagship theater in our little neighborhood and give me the chance to see all my favorite classics on a big screen in a gorgeous old-time movie theater
- The arc of a dancer’s foot in a ballet slipper. I may not have ever gone on toe (one of my big life regrets) but the magic and beauty of ballet will ever thrill me. And for that matter, so did the performance of Revelations by Alvin Ailey last week.
- My neighborhood. Just yesterday, my favorite local shop hosted a chocolate tasting with wine, and while I was there (for how could I miss it) I ran into friends, old and new.
- Dark chocolate.
- Jerusalem. Although this is a more challenging city to love than Paris, spending time in Jerusalem has taught me how to look for beauty beyond the obvious. In the bouganvillia that crawls between the cracks of the Jerusalem stone. In the night-blossoming jasmine. In the night lights of the Old City casting shadows on the steps and the windmill of Mishkenot Shananim.
- New York. Of course.
- Black and white photographs. Mainly portraits. Street photography. Alfred Steiglitz's series of Georgia O'Keefe. Especially her hands.
- Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. Yes, I know. But it’s the most energizing work-out song I’ve ever pumped to.
- That thrill you get when you’ve accomplished something amazing at work. And the realization that, no matter how tedious, how annoying, how difficult it is and can be, you love your work.
- Finishing a good novel.
- Writing a good novel (not something I’ve felt the beauty of yet, but one can pray.)
- Visiting day at camp. There is nothing more fulfilling than to see how happy your child is when they are on their own, independent and having fun.
- The first school band concert of the season. Another recitation of Hot Cross Buns. Makes me cry every time.
- The last pair of socks folded in the weekly laundry. No household chore is more satisfying.
- A made bed.
- The wind in your face on your first bike ride of the spring.
- The big meditation rock in the middle of Sligo Creek. Flat enough to sit on and ponder life in the middle of a walk.
- Shoes. The wardrobe item that always fits.
- Sisters. Especially mine.
- Arriving in Arizona to visit my in-laws, and inhaling that first breath of the desert air.
- Remembering my wedding day.
- Remembering the days each of my children were born. Even the sad day.
- Singing with community on Shabbat at Adat Shalom.
- The family photo albums my husband has lovingly created and tended.
- Realizing that, as I reach 50, the blinding and binding depression and sadness of much of my adolescence and young adulthood has slowly but surely given way to a feeling of contentedness and even joy in mid-life. There are still blue days, but there haven’t been any black days in a very long time.
- The clingy red dress I just bought to celebrate that birthday. Waistline be damned.
- The lions on the Connecticut Avenue Bridge over Rock Creek Park.
- Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day.
- Politics and Prose (my local bookstore.)
- My writing teachers and mentors. My writing retreats. My writing.
- Getting published.
- Watching the neighborhood children grow up.
- Thai food. Chinese food. Vietnamese food.
- Mrs. Dalloway.
- Other favorite movies that make me smile – Singin’ in the Rain. An American in Paris. Annie Hall. Gone with the Wind.
- The little blue gemstones someone embedded in the sidewalk on a street on my walk to the metro. They form a triangle at the corner of one sidewalk block, and they sparkle in the sunlight.
My gratitude for these valentines is boundless. Allowing myself to see the beauty in the small steps of each day allows me to relish life more fully, and to be even more grateful for the paper hearts and sweet tarts of what could otherwise be a silly holiday.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Photo by qthomasbower via Flickr