I have been thinking a little, okay a lot, about love lately.
Who gets love? According to Janis Ian, “Love is meant for beauty queens/and high school girls with clear skinned smiles” … well that knocks me out of the picture. I’m not even close to young with wrinkles and acne. My smile is lopsided.
Why do we fall into love? I think this might be a question for the biochemists – scientists charting pheromones, hormones, and genetic markers. And for the real estate agents chanting, ‘location, location, location.’
How do we fall out of love? I have come to the conclusion that someone always leaves, by death or by choice. Harsh but … the truth.
Could I buy some love if I had a stupendously large limit on my VISA? Would PayPal guarantee it? Maybe I could rent love for a night or a weekend. I’m not sure I want to use my expendable income in this manner.
Okay, so maybe I haven’t figured out too much. I’m a middle-aged love neophyte.
But then I was driving down the AVENUE OF THE PICKLES. What? You don’t know the AVENUE OF THE PICKLES. C’est une catastrophe! (That’s French, the so-called language of love.)
Every holiday season, an outdoor shopping center nearby outlines their trees in lights. Until five years ago, the lights were green. In combination with the shape of the trees, the green lights made an avenue of pickles standing on edge. High in the sparkling trees, speakers blare out holiday songs.
When my husband was alive, we would laugh with joy and excitement over the pickles. The trees with their green lights seemed so incongruent, surreal, and even bizarre in contrast with the stuffy matronly shops they surrounded. In amazement, we would clasp hands and walk through the shopping center oohing and aching over the PICKLES. Giggling. Too old to be giggling but maybe it was love we were feeling. The odd display reminded us of all the times that we walked together sharing silly times and tragic episodes.
One year, we walked the three miles from our house to our favorite seafood restaurant in the shopping center but without our usual delight in the decorations. It had not been a great year. His work stressors and my dissertation disappointments had forged a silence between us.
During the walk home, I was dry-mouthed with the realization that this was the slippery slope to our love’s end. But looking up at the green lights, the lines of goofy up-ended pickle trees, I had an urge to hold his hand – like I had done in previous years when walking the Avenue of the Pickles. In my heart and my head, my wish to feel love and my Russian peasant fatalism fought each other. After a long, breath-robbing stalemate, I exhaled “Fuck it,” and picked up his hand. He smiled at me. My face wouldn’t move. A flash of insight occurred. This was a man I had loved in the past and I could choose to love him again. This was the choice point. Gulping, big caterpillar tears crawled down my face, I smiled back. Not my biggest or most convincing smile, but still a smile. We walked the three miles home holding hands.
Today, the trees are lit up in green, red, purple, blue, and pink lights. How fantastic. And love inspiring.
While I still don’t know who or why or how we fall in love, I do know that there are easy times when love has a tight hold on us and other times when we must choose to hold tightly to love.
The little squiggles of light-trimmed trees, the crazy histories we make with people, and even language return us to each other. They remind us – we have the choice to love.
Maybe as we collide willy-nilly into the holiday season, we can stop wasting our time on questions of little consequence. Then we can look for all the little signals to choose love and wrap garlands of twinkling lights around our love histories.