I think there were 250 people at our wedding, and we hugged, talked to, or danced with almost all of them. I hit one of them on the head with my bouquet. She was about 6 years old, and no, she wasn’t the next one to get married. Our wedding cake was delicious, home-made by the friend of a friend, with real butter-cream icing, decorated with fresh flowers. We each had one mouthful of it, for the traditional “feed-your-new-spouse” photo. By the time we made it back to the cake table after that, every crumb was gone. Even the flower girl, who had dutifully handed cake to all her friends and relations, did not get a single mouthful. But we’re still married, almost 11 years later, so it must have been about more than cake.
Today is Valentine’s Day. I remember hating this day in college, where I was surrounded by preppy blondes in red sweaters whose boyfriends sent them red roses all day long, even in class. I was not a preppy blonde, and the boys in my life were more likely to be searching their souls for deep meaning than sending me flowers, in class or anywhere else. When The Man In My Life arrived on the scene, several years after college, he rarely said it with flowers. Counting from our first date, he’s been in my life for 13 years now, and my ideas of romance no longer resemble what I was envying in my college days.
In fact, the more I live, the less distinction I make between romance and love. Love is love. Its expression differs, but the essential impetus, to cherish the beloved, is the same. And the more I live, the more I find that the only expressions of love that are valuable to me are those that are unique to the giver. I no longer want roses delivered during my literature class because it’s not something my particular husband would be likely to do. He has other ways of communicating, and it is the content, not the form, of the communication that matters.
So much of our commercial world depends on convincing us that a certain thing is intrinsically valuable. If you have this THING, you are loved. This is a lie. It’s an appealing lie. It’s much easier to acquire a thing than to acquire real love. But it remains a lie. Any loser can come up with a diamond, and the diamond can’t save you when the loser shows his true colors.
One of my favorite recent memories is of a rainy day, not unlike this one. My husband was not out to sea. He was home with us, catching up on some paperwork, checking on the game, cleaning his desk. My daughter was still little enough to nap in the afternoon, and I was playing with her on the couch when she fell asleep on my lap. I curled up with her and drowsed, listening to the rain outside and the sounds of my husband moving around the house. Once, he tiptoed down the hall to see us, and we smiled at each other.
That’s what I love now.