So it’s Valentine’s day. And having just come home to my lobster, after 2 months away, I am feeling it. Not in the tacky teddy bears and red roses way, but in the isn’t it nice to love and be loved way. My sister updated her status today to mention that really, Valentine’s day should belong to fathers and daughters. I don’t disagree. If mothers and sons want to claim the day, I suppose they are welcome to it, but there is something particular to a little girl’s psyche that relishes the overt affirmation a day like today offers. How can a day devoted to romance and defined by chocolate and cards be anything more than cheesy and disingenuous between two people who know all of the others isms, including drooling on the pillow and staying in the bathroom too long? But there is enough mystery in the space between fathers and their daughters to restore the romance. Because, after all, being romantic means being idealistic. Something most married couples lose in the first few years (dare I say year?) But when little girls look at their dads, they still have stars in their eyes.
My parents started a lovely tradition with my sister and I when we were I don’t know how old. It included a nice dinner out as a family, and usually a gift that we associated with dad. I’m sure mom had a hand in it, but something in our preteen selves relished the idea that it was from our father. I still have a heart shaped ring from my eighth grade year from my dad. That’s the same year I first got kissed, and someone sent me one of those $1. carnations used to raise funds and torture dorks in February (I say as a member of the club). It was a good year to be reminded that my number one fellow was dear old dad. Carnations and boys may come and go, but dad endures forever.
Over the years I have been struck by the biblical concept of alters for remembering. And have thought many times how necessary they are in modern life, where the bigger better new and novel comes faster and easier than ever, at least in the developed world. In Deuteronomy, God reminds the Isrealites-right before they enter the promised land-to be careful not to forget God, and what he did for them. In Exodus, Moses builds an alter to commemorate God’s covenant to the Isrealites. I like to imagine the Isrealites, wandering around a desert and every so often, backtracking over a pile of rocks. What are those? the young ones would ask. Oh yes, the older ones would remember, that was that one time when things went right. When God showed us kindness. When food fell from the heavens. I wonder if they would recall the part where the blessing became a curse, and the food they were once so glad to receive became not enough.
Love is like that. When we first encounter it, the romantic kind of love, we grasp it with greedy hands, gorging ourselves. Something so unexpected and delicious. Twitterpated, photo-shopped love. If we’re not very, very careful, we soon tire of what was once a miracle, falling from the sky. The texture becomes banal, the flavor bland. If we don’t set ourselves an alter, pile up some rocks to wander by every so often, we will forget about the highs of our lives. The good times. God knows. Proverbs 5: 18-20 councils – “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” Pretty much every woman I know who has nursed misses her pre-baby boobs. Pretty sure God knows even this. Of all body parts, he says to husbands “let her breasts satisfy you.” They’re manna, in a literal sense. Holidays and anniversaries can be these alters. They are a way to point back, and say “remember when those breasts thrilled you? Appreciate them still!”
The 4th of July is an alter for me. It marks the weekend my daughter first came home to live with me, and then the next year, when I knew that she would probably stay. I admit, more than one year has gone by that I have failed to notice the rock pile. Just as my husband and I traditionally forget our anniversary. It’s the only anniversary tradition we have. Maybe an actual pile of rocks would do us some good. We usually forget in the midst of one crises or another. We are wandering in the desert, and all we can see is the dust. All the more reason to remember the times it all went right. Things can be alters to. The ring my father gave me will always conjure valentine’s day my eight grade year, and how loved I felt by dad. A single clarinet earring I still own, separated years ago from it’s twin, will always remind me of the day I came home crying from junior high angst, when my sister had spent her 11 year old fortune to buy me the most fabulous clarinet replica earrings. The one I didn’t lose is an alter to her love. Wedding rings are the most ubiquitous alter we wear, and yet, like our anniversary, they’re easy to forget, even though they’re RIGHT there, in front of us all the time. It’s appropriate that many are set with precious stones. They are stones, none the less. They remind us of the day we said we’d slog through it all, happily. They should remind us of the husbands of our youth, who bought us flowers and wanted to hold hands. They may be as changed as post baby boobs, but they are now the fathers who can be the father that endures.
So on this most holy of Valentine’s days, I wish you a few warm fuzzies; may your daughter look at you with stars in her eyes. May your husband still dig your boobs. May you take your socks off if you do actually get around to business time. If you’re a dude, may you dig the boobs. If you’re single, may you enjoy a rocking box of chocolates and bottle of wine you bought yourself; I promise, you won’t be disappointed;) (Because you never get it wrong now, do you?!) May you find some rocks, and make a pile in your backyard for every time it went right. May you make today one of those times. And may you take 5 minutes to watch Flight of the Concord’s most Valentiney of songs, Business Time. Consider it my v-day gift to you:)