The Best Kind of Love

Valentine's Day art in my son's first grade classroom.

Valentine's Day art in my son's first grade classroom.

Valentine’s Day used to be one of my most favorite holidays.  It was the day that I, just like every other true romantic, would envision hearts and flowers swirling around in a violently pink and red tornado of romcoms and dreams of “happily ever after.”

And I started young on this idea.  Back when we all got to participate.  My 4th grade shoebox intricately decorated with pink and red homemade hearts was ready for anything, sitting patiently on my desk during the class party.

In high school things changed a little.  People could buy messages from some random student council representative and have them delivered to someone – anyone really – in 5th period.  I can’t remember ever getting one, which basically means that I probably didn’t and as a result I have eternally blocked those VDays from my memory.  I’m quoted in the yearbook as saying that "I would never want to date anyone that would date me."  Sounds like me.

I had a blip of good Valentine’s days in college with my boyfriend.  He always came with the roses and poetically written cards – which I still have tucked away in a box in the attic, lovingly saved to relive every time I feel old and unattractive.  If only we could have been in the same room without killing each other.  Also, sleeping with each other’s friends was perhaps counter productive to our long term love story. 

But then – finally – I met my husband.  And history be damned – I finally got a valentine all my own, every year.  Forever.  Like forever, forever.  Every year until the day we die.   

Kids and hearts - in 2011.

Kids and hearts - in 2011.

Our early valentine’s days as a married couple were usually fun with a fancy night out – or a beautiful home cooked meal.  Sexy lingerie, porn, sex toys and strawberries typically made an appearance.  And chocolate sauce.  No one ever tells you how sticky it is…

As the kids got older, we started making the holiday more family friendly.  Instead of strawberries and naughty bits, we had valentine’s themed art.  Hearts were everywhere in our house – stuck to windows, hanging from string.  I even started putting up pink lights on the fence in front of our house. 

A few years ago, I attempted to pull the romance back into play with my husband.  As a surprise I decided to do a private boudoir self portrait session for him.  I did my hair and nails, waited for the perfect light.  I didn’t get nudie-patootie, but my version of sexy (when considering sexy of a plus sized subject – you have to get creative.)  I tried to keep them minimally edited (photoshop isn’t going to make me feel vulnerable) and I sent him the link hoping to catch pure glee on his face when he came home to tell me how much he loved them.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  It never happened.  After a few days, I got worried that I had sent it to the wrong person.  Checked my email – nope.  And phew.  I finally decided to ask him about them, with a sly look on my face, batting my eyelashes.   He looked surprised, then slightly embarrassed that he forgot, and finally smiled and said “yes.”  And then, he blinked a couple times, the smile slowly faded as he got distracted by something more important.  And that was it.  Like – literally – it.  He never said another word about it.  I mean, I’m not saying I looked like Kate Upton in the images – but I have to admit, I was hoping for at least one adjective from him.  A little bit later I took the link down.  And of course, it became a thing.  I would bring it up, he would act confused.  He would ask me to put them back up.  I would refuse. 

Now, with the kids older, when this holiday comes around, I still spend time picking out and buying candy.  I make cards.  I keep the tradition alive because it is something that I want them to remember.  Love is important.  And its everywhere.

I want them to remember that love exists no matter who you date. (although thankfully they aren't dating yet.) It’s the unconditional love from the people in your life that you truly could never live without. 

In truth, my most memorable Valentine’s day was a year before I met my husband.  I was 25.  I had given up on real love at the time, and spent hours upon hours drinking cheap red wine with my best friend, smoking cigarettes (I haven’t smoked in over a decade) and (I drink cheap white now).  We would laugh and talk about our lives.  We would talk about a future that we thought would make us happy.  We went so far as to dream up men who we would date.  They had names, back stories, meet cutes.  They had specific jobs, cars and dressed in a certain way.  They were brothers, and came from a city far away.  And that year, on Valentine’s day, she had roses delivered to my work from my fictional boyfriend.  I laughed and cried and thanked the universe for her.

As I sit here, in my forties, thinking about the love that fills my heart, the love that I know will never go away for as long as I live, it’s not the romantic love that I think about.   Instead it's:

Heart shaped cake, photographed by my 9 year old.

Heart shaped cake, photographed by my 9 year old.

  • the card with a heart shaped button I got from my mom when I was 9.
  • the gardenias that my dad delivered a couple days ago, because its my favorite flower.
  • the heart shaped cake that my daughter made for me when she was 9.
  • the necklace I bought myself 7 years ago for $6.
  • the flowers from my friend when I was 25 and single.
  • the hearts I made with my kids and hung on strings.

This year, on Valentine’s Day, I sit here, not dreaming of roses or candy.  I'm writing a blog about love.  But not the romantic kind.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure that kind lasts. 

The love I feel today is the unconditional kind.  The love that comes from within, regardless of whether I look like Kate Upton.  It’s the kind that comes from my kids, whether or not I’m a great cook.  It’s the love that comes from the unrelenting tribe of women that I have inside my heart every day, no matter whether I am killing it, or being killed by it. 

And that love will always be more than enough.