Monthly Archives: February 2016

The many loves of Valentine’s Day

You are loved2Years ago, when I was single and lonely and living miles away from any of my fellow non-attached girlfriends, I dreaded Valentine’s Day. That was when this holiday seemed to me a magical day reserved only for the coupled, who would undoubtedly spend a blissful day enraptured by each other, leaving the rest of us feeling alone and worthless.

I was surprised when a delivery man appeared in the newsroom and called my name. “These are for you,” he said, handing me a huge bouquet of balloons, the centerpiece being an enormous red heart-shaped Mylar balloon proclaiming “I love you!”

Baffled, my single heart beating, I opened the card. Everyone oohed and aahed and asked who they were from. For a split second I thought of manufacturing a secret lover, but I sheepishly replied, “They’re from my mom.”

She meant well and was so thoughtful, but it somehow magnified my lack of romantic prospects. I called her to thank her and told she’d made my day. Then I called my sister and said, “Don’t ever let her do that again.”

But of course I remember her loving gesture every Valentine’s Day with gratitude. This silly so-called holiday should be about love, after all, not romance.

Years later on Valentine’s Day, I was happily in love and preparing for a needed weekend getaway with my boyfriend, even with the loss of my mom three weeks earlier weighing heavily on my mind. A gorgeous bouquet of roses appeared on my office desk. This time the card read: “Love, Dad.”

I was so touched that he sent them, in the midst of his great grief, on his first Valentine’s Day without her. See, it’s about love.

That night, my boyfriend and I headed out of town, checked into a ritzy hotel, and went to dinner. He seemed standoffish to me as we walked the streets of this romantic city with his hand in his pocket rather than holding mine. The restaurant wasn’t very good, and he seemed inordinately disappointed about the chicken cordon bleu. We walked wordlessly back to our hotel for a nightcap and dessert.

He was so fidgety and uncomfortable, it made me nervous. Until I found out the reason for his nerves.

“So I have a question,” he said.

And he offered me my mother’s engagement ring, which she had told my sister was to go to him with her blessing. He had been carrying it in his pocket and was petrified he would lose it, so he kept his hand firmly gripped around it.

I told him about the balloons, and how she was happy that I was happy, that I had found this man to spend my life with, that she had known him, and loved him too.

A few years ago, my Valentine was a poem written by my then 6-year-old.

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
I really love you!”

Oh, the love again.

This morning, my husband let me stay in bed and surprised me with French toast. The doorbell rang a little later – an unexpected delivery of dangerously delicious chocolate-covered strawberries from my husby.

Over breakfast, we reminded our son about why February 14 is important to us, how it was the beginning of our family with him and his sister.

“Some people believe Valentine’s Day is just created by greeting card companies to get more money,” my 9-year-old said. “Is that true?”

Pretty much, I said. And it makes some people feel bad for no reason. It doesn’t matter if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s just a day for telling people we love them – even if we shouldn’t need a designated day for that.

It’s just a day, whether you have balloons and roses, or you shirk the whole V Day thing and enjoy too many shots with your friends, or spend the night home alone with a bowl of ice cream and bottle of wine, or are chasing after kids hyped up on candy while dreaming of peace and quiet rather than romance.

Whatever kind of Valentine’s Day you have, I hope you know you are loved.

 

 

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Finding acceptance at the dog park

dogs.

Everyone is welcome at the dog park.

Our energetic year-old puppy loves to play with other dogs, so when our city opened an off-leash park a few blocks away from us, she was in heaven. She has little interest in running after a ball there. She just wants to play – with each and every one of the dogs she finds.

This whole dog thing is still pretty new to me. (Ask my friends how many of them thought I would ever be writing about my dog, and the answer would be a big zero). I was wary of the crowds of canines when we first started going to the park, but we’re regulars now.

This morning, she dragged me as fast as she could toward the gate leading to her freedom. Sensing a new playmate, other dogs raced up to meet her. One of them was a pit bull. I have always been a little afraid of these dogs, so I was nervous as I opened the latch on the gate.

Our excitable Borador (black lab-border collie mix) and the pit bull sniffed each other out for a millisecond before they ran off together. They were joined by a docile cocker spaniel, two boisterous golden retrievers and a little Westy with a face right off a can of dog food.

Our last visit, she ran around with a chipper Chihuahua, a stately Siberian husky, and a rambunctious Rottweiler. When she was just a tiny puppy, a huge Bernese mountain dog approached her and I was terrified, only to see that mammoth dog cuddle up to her and place a protective paw on her back.

At the dog park, black, brown and white dogs run around with abandon. I’ve seen dogs with three legs, dogs with one eye, purebreds and mixed breeds mingle without a thought. If a dog misbehaves, he is removed by his owner and likely won’t be back.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were so accepting of those not like us?

Imagine if we didn’t judge people based on the color of the skin or their ethnic background. If we didn’t make assumptions based on their short skirts or hoodies or hijabs or tattoos. If we didn’t care who they love or how they worship or what they do for a living. If we didn’t prejudge an entire group based on the bad actions of a few of its members.

I was scared of pit bulls because I’ve seen horror stories about attacks by these dogs. But the one my dog made friends with today was nothing like I’d imagined. When it was time for him to leave, my dog followed him up the hill and watched longingly as he walked away with his owner.

Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying, and I am in no way comparing any human being to a dog. I just would love to live in a world in which everyone is welcome, where newcomers are greeted at the door without prejudice. I think when we open our minds to those who are different than us and get to know them, we discover that we have a lot in common. Most of us just want to be accepted for who we are and judged on our behavior rather than any preconceived notions or the actions of another.

I hope that pit bull is back again tomorrow. He taught me a lot.