Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Archive for the ‘Valentine’s Day’ Category

What Mom Taught Me About Love

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No one can say that us kids had an easy time of it when my parents were married. They were bitter enemies sniping at each other across trenches filled with their children. Daily we were hit with shrapnel. But we tried to love each other – each in our own way – distorted, ugly, and always with a bitter wariness.

One of the days that I felt the most loving towards Mom was an Autumn afternoon in Mobile. My parents had been divorced for three years, and we were living in a rental complex of townhomes. The townhomes were okay – close to most of what we needed, Mom had the only car. A Ford Pinto station wagon that surprisingly never exploded. The three of us kids rode the bus to school and hitched rides to what we needed. In a pinch, we could call a cab. Mom had set that up for emergencies.

That warm afternoon, I walked back from high school. The front yards in the complex were green, and some of the renters had planted pansies around their doors. The splotches of color drew my gaze until the put-putting sound of the pinto came into earshot.

I looked up to see my mother in the car with her boyfriend, a man from New Orleans that I had not liked, not been especially kind about, or really paid any attention to apart from the brushed-off idea that maybe, yuck, my mother was having sex with him. I was seventeen, and the thought of my 43-year-old mother doing it was disgusting.

Through the windshield, I saw them. He was driving, but his other hand was draped across her shoulders. His hand brushed her hair. She smiled at him and took a bite from the orangey paper of a MacDonald’s hamburger in her hand. The car ambled at a sedate pace down the road. I watched them, starting to dredge up the dislike I had for the man. But I couldn’t do it. Something in me grew up, Mom hadn’t smiled in a long time. She was smiling up at him, and he was smiling back. They were happy.

Something clicked for me that day. I wanted Mom to be in love and happy like that as much as possible. She had been miserable most of her life. There was enough adult in me that I could wish her love’s happiness.

I wish I could say that I was graceful and good-natured about the relationship after that incident. No. I was still a narcissistically and empathically challenged teenager who wanted things her way, but gradually something loosened. My younger siblings did not see things my way, and she ended the relationship. A year before she died, she told me that he was the love of her life.

Now when I see people smiling, happy, in love, I want to clap. Hoorah. You did it. Great job.

This Valentine’s day, let’s celebrate each other’s relationships.

Share your heart.

(Image by http://www.morguefile.com)

Valentine’s Day – To Sit or Not

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Valentine’s Day. Well, what can you say? I woke up this morning to find my stalker, yes, I think of her as mine, had enlisted her husband to harass me. Block, block, block. The shredder-guy is coming to release me of my deluge of papers and I’ve yet to gather the papers together (but not the transcripts of her texts and screenshots of her threatening to hurt me). Not an auspicious start to the holiday – maybe I should just sit this one out.

Gathering my stuff for the shredder, I realized that I was a magpie in another life – surely the monstrous number of books, photos, and papers is a sign. One box contained a yearbook from middle school – 8th grade. An infamous year of that awkward stage, the year after I had settled in Alabama when I knew enough not to carry my monogrammed shoe bag from Scottish boarding school but not much else. Academically, I was bored out of my mind being a year or three ahead in most subjects. And completely flummoxed by the teacher for English, Spanish, and French. She had a kind heart and taught conversational French by the book.

After two years of French taught by a Frenchwoman, I was way, way ahead of other students. In this class, we sat around memorizing little dialogues before reciting them with another student at the front of the class.

Remember 8th grade. The hormones. The preoccupation with skin imperfections. Always before the yearbook picture. The tight jeans and bowl cut hairstyles. Who was responsible for those atrocities? Those damn polyester shirts that gapped you know where. Always. Or the button popped off after giving a book review. Yes. A bad time.

French class was my respite. I could daydream and fret depending on the day, state of my hair, cooperation of my shirt, or clarity of my skin. I do remember the time I had to recite my little French ditty with the cutest guy in school, Serge. Not ever forgetting his name, his full name, but only giving you the first name so I can bypass the humiliation of someone contacting him.

Serge stood at the front of the class in his bell-bottom jeans. With the knife-like pleat. Wearing a chest hugging shirt. His blonde hair cut in a mullet. Green eyes half-shut. Skin like freshly churned butter. With his lazy lion looks, I thought wow. Wow. Frigid air conditioning lifted his hair, and I thought WOW. He’s so cute. Maybe I said it aloud. My mouth was open when I heard my name called and called again. I shook my head. Eek. I stood up knocking over my chair, tripped over my neighbor’s chair, and stumbled to the front of the class. I could do this. I knew I could. Do this.

At the front of the classroom, all eyes turned to us, the teacher said, “Begin.”

I looked at Serge and thought no bloody way. But it is school, and I’m a good student. He smiled at me without looking at me. In my general area. Hormones, adrenalin mostly, raced through my body.

“Ou … “ I looked at the teacher. A red spot formed on my flat chest.

“Go on,” she said. I clenched my fists. Somebody in the back of the classroom giggled.

“Ou guardez-vous …”

I felt more red spots creep up my neck. Serge smirked at me. He knew he was the coolest, cutest guy in school and I was just a dork.

“Ou guardez-vous … “

I bit my lip. So hard that I remember tasting blood. Burning splotches broke out on my chest, neck, and face. People in the front row of desks would not meet my eyes; facial muscles straining, not cracking a smile. The middle to the back of the class was out and out laughing.

Serge must have thought he was going to play with me. “What do you want to ask me?” he said arranging things in his pant pockets. By now, I could see the red splotches combining; instead of a collection of measles-like red bumps, I had Scarlet fever.

There was only one way out of it.

“I’ll take the F,” I said to the teacher.

“Ou guardez-vous vos saucisses?” The vignette would have me asking the cutest guy in my grade where do you keep your sausages? Sometimes in life, you just have to sit one out.

Oh, good, here’s the shredder guy. He needs to obliterate this yearbook then I can have a laugh and get on with Valentine’s Day.

Love Without Words

earring 2Sometimes words are unnecessary. Such a weird thing for a writer to say. Coming up on Valentine’s Day, I want to remember what it is to be in love, astoundingly, courageously, heart in my mouth, love. When I started thinking about this post, a series of images took flower in my heart, bittersweet, opening my eyes to how lonely life had been for years.

Nineteen years ago, I went to dinner at what was for us, a fancy restaurant. After ten years together, finally finished with my graduate schooling, Rod had scraped together enough money to go for our first Valentine’s Day dinner out.

I was excited, toe-tingling, searching my closet for something pretty to wear, putting on uncomfortable lingerie, excited. After an hour of primping, usually I’m done in 30 minutes, 45 if I have to deal with animals; my hair looked okay, eye make-up subtle, mouth a bright red for the holiday, my husband walked into the bedroom. I thought how happy I was to be married to a man I adored … and who was so handsome. Thick black hair shot through with silver, soft kissable mouth, green eyes lively with intelligence and humor.

Before we left, we stood looking at each other. If there were words, they weren’t memorable. We drove to the restaurant in his beat-up Corvette. For five courses, smiles and eye contact were our form of communication. Words would have muddled the time. Before dessert, Rod reached into his pocket to pull out a box. Without breaking our gaze, he presented the box across the table. Opening the box, I found a pair of garnet earrings bound in silver wire – these from a man who professed a disbelief in gifts. Silently, I put them on. They were small rectangles of a soft red, the color of blood. Plates of berries and cream interrupted our contented sighs. After a final glass of champagne, we tootled the mile back to our house.

Immediately, I felt sick. Running to the bathroom, I vomited raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and cream all over the bathroom. Rod got a pillow for my knees and held my long curly hair out of my face. The projectile berries created quite a firework display covering the bathroom floor, the walls, and me with blotches of red, purple, blue and pink.

Between explosions, I said to Rod, “I’m so sorry. I was excited about the night and now I have a whoopsie tummy.”
He ran towels under water ands started to wipe off my face. Another explosion of berries.
“Not a problem. What an ending to the night,” he said.
“I ruined it,” I said tears mixing with the stains on my face. Caring for me like I was a sick baby, Rod took my clothes off, chucking them in the trash, wiped clean my body with cool towels, and scooped me up.
“You are a mess,” Rod said laying me in the bed.
“Yes, but a mess who loves you with all her heart,” I said.
Rod put a wastebasket by the side of my bed and a washcloth on the nightstand. “Just in case. I’m right here.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. And you are my mess.”
I took out the earrings to wake up with them still held in my hand.

Less than three weeks later, Rod contracted a virus. His heart bled out.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you can use action to show someone how much you love them. Celebrate their foibles, little quirks, and whoopsie tummies. I am going to wear my garnet earrings in remembrance of love.

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