Unbelievable as it may be, I forgot that today was Valentine’s Day. I know, so awful. Perhaps the forgetting was a bit deliberate this year: if I forget about it, I don’t have to feel … well … Valentine-less. Alas, my daughters reminded me by asking sometime before bed last night if today was going to be a holiday. Hm. Okay, yes, I suppose Valentine’s counts as a holiday. And I have lots of love to give out. So, in typical Tiffini-fashion, I decided to embrace the day I secretly wished we could skip: I told the girls I was going to serve them breakfast in bed, which I did. I didn’t have gifts because, remember, I’d forgotten that it was an atypical Tuesday so I decided to take them out. We went to the florist first where I let my garden girl Breathe choose a small bouquet; then we hiked to Party City where I let my balloon-happy Alight choose a couple of wild and fun balloons. After that: chocolate heaven. Breathe and Alight were both quite happy. We went back to our regularly scheduled day of school and creative games and crafts. We used our gazillion blocks and our tin of Lincoln Logs to build a Squinkie village, complete with a boat ride, roads, cars, church, bank and a couple of houses. In case I haven’t ever mentioned on this blog before: I –love– blocks. I especially love Lincoln Logs, even though I have no idea how to build anything out of them. I forgot again that it was a “special” day. Instead, I settled into my habit of making every day count, every moment an opportunity for a creative discovery.
Here’s the thing.
I don’t have a very good relationship with this day. While there have been, of course, a few notable exceptions, mostly, really stinky things tend to happen right on or immediately after this day. I don’t know why, but they always have. Even in high school, I dreaded this day because students were allowed to buy candy for other students, which members of the Student Council would then deliver. Guess what? I never got one. So, even when it’s supposed to be extra fun and special…. well, it just never was. Somehow, after high school, it got progressively worse. It is not my day.
I’d like to be strong, say “who cares, it’s all overrated anyway”. I’d like to be strong and say, “That’s alright, I have memories of exceptional Valentine’s Days that I can focus on instead.” But… well, at the moment, I’m a little too tired to lie. As fervently as I’d like to pretend otherwise, I’m not exempt from the human race. I, too, had visions of a prince and my own foot sliding into a proverbial glass slipper. I, too, have dreamed of waltzing right into happily ever after. It’s the stuff I write about and, until recently, I rather believed it was in my future. I mean, I know I’m hard to understand, that I over-analyze every last detail, that I’m often too emotional and that I have walls stronger than any ever built in China. Deep down, I know that I make a really good friend, but I don’t mind that good of a romantic companion.
Actually, what kind of stings the most isn’t so much some feeling of unloveableness (it’s a word, because I just wrote it :)): it’s the idea that I’m forgettable. As serious as I am, as weird as my musings often are, you’d think that people would have no problem remembering me—-but I fear that, in reality, you would be wrong. My greatest, darkest fear is being forgotten; thus, having a day that reminds me that it’s possible I have been isn’t very easy.
First thing this morning, as soon as they woke up, the girls came up to me and gave me pictures that they’d colored. Alight had used one of her baby doll blankets to wrap up a pink plastic necklace and one of her Squinkies; Breathe had wrapped one of her stuffed animals and a paper tissue flower we’d made in church a few days before in one of her baby doll blankets. I got to “unwrap” these presents. Their little faces were shining with excitement and expectation as I did so. They then proceeded to run to their rooms, gather up treasures, wrap them in baby doll blankets and “give” them to each other. As they were unwrapping these beautifully priceless gifts, Alight looked at me and said with a huge smile on her face: “We don’t even need presents because we already have some!” My heart melted. I made over the “presents” and then held each of them close. It was the sweetest thing that has ever happened to me on Valentine’s Day: it made today one of the best days of the entire past year. They ran off to play, excitedly talking, with no idea of the lesson they’d just taught me, or of the immense gift they’d just given.
I sat at the table and worked on wiping the constant flow of tears away. The truth is—I am important. I can make homemade geoboards that look like those in play museums. I can figure out how to successfully master basically any DS or iphone game on the market. I know how to build a tent out of blankets and pillows. I give great chocolate facials. I don’t get bent out of shape if I see child print on my walls. I have whole collections of creative games and activities that can make even the shyest child laugh out loud. I give really good Elephant in the Jungle rides and regularly make myself out to look like a fool as I climb into slides and tunnels I barely fit in. We dance in the rain. I hand out extra ingredients to little chefs then promise to take a “real bite” out whatever potion they mix up. I tell pretty good stories. But, most of all, my little girls love me.
The girls reminded me today that Valentine’s isn’t simply to celebrate romantic love: it’s a day set aside from every other day to remind those closest to us that they are important, and that they are special. It is a day to remember that we are special and important to someone.
The immensity with which I love and adore my daughters still, after all these years, surprises and amazes me. The last eight years have been wonder-filled because of them. Wounds I thought would never heal have because of their existence. They amaze and challenge and surprise me every day. They make me laugh every day. And if a Prince never rides up in my life, it truly is okay, because I have the two bestest Valentine’s of all time already. Love is love is love: while romantic love is precious and special, it’s not any more special or precious than any other kind of love. The love Oscar Schlinder felt for the Jews and other “unwanteds” not only saved lives but restored hope. The love Mother Teresa felt for the poor and the sick did the same thing. The love my girls give me gives me confidence and joy. The greatest present of all isn’t subscribing to the media’s idea of romantic love. In fact, the greatest present of all isn’t reserved for romantic love: the greatest love of all is simply –being– loved. Questioning your own beauty or self-worth based on whether or not you received an oversized bouquet of red roses, or a box of chocolates, today is forgetting that you matter, and are very, very special to more than one person. Having a Valentine, having a spouse or a partner, is nice. But it’s not mandatory. And *not* having a Valentine doesn’t make you any less special, or any less loved, than those that do. What’s more, it doesn’t mean that people you’ve loved and lost have forgotten you, or no longer care. It simply gives you an opportunity to look around and appreciate even more the other people who love and need you.
Today, love surrounded me: I was in the midst of it as I built things with the blocks and Lincoln Log, it showed up again when my girls picked out their Valentine’s Day gifts from me, it was in storytime and Cloud Garden and, mostly, it was in the little hugs I received all day long. With their blanket-wrapped gifts and their colored cards, my little girls reminded me that we are all loved and, as a result, Valentine’s Day is for everyone: even those ordinary, not-very-funny, beautiful or fun ones of us. Indeed, maybe Valentine’s Day with all its lessons is especially for us.