Friday, February 18, 2011

Until Next Year, My Valentine

When I lived in Paris I was walking down Rue Bosquet near the Seine when I noticed a protest taking place alongside the river. Their picket signs read, Manifestation Celibataire which means Singles Protest. When I realized that it was Valentine's Day, the protest suddenly made sense. Kind of. Hundreds of Parisian singles gathering together to protest against the holiday of romantic love? I couldn't figure out if they were genuinely offended by Valentine's Day or if they were just lonely and bored. But when the next Valentine's Day rolled around the following year I discovered that I totally identified with the disgruntled, disenfranchised, single-on-Valentine's Day lonely heart.

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 So, naturally I hosted my own Manifestation Celibataire. A bunch of college girls came to my apartment dressed in black and we ate hot fudge sundaes and watched Meg Ryan movies. It was a total blast and I remember thinking, maybe those Parisians are on to something. Maybe Valentine's Day doesn't have to be about a guy in order to be fun. I was all gung-ho to host a Manifestation Celibataire every year, but then I got married and that modified my plans a bit.

Our first Valentine's Day together, two months after we were married, Jeremy made me a pinata. I remember it was eleven o'clock at night by the time we hung it from a tree branch outside. I'm sure the neighbors appreciated our hysterical laughter as I wacked at the pinata with a boat oar, the only thing we could find. There was a new sweater inside the pinata and I remember thinking I had arrived. It was the best Valentine's Day ever. But then things changed again when we had kids.

On Valentine's Day this year I sent them upstairs to get fancy while I cooked dinner. They put make-up on themselves and the baby (including lipstick on their eyelids) and chose dresses that made them feel beautiful. I think they did a great job.

Now I have to confess that although I love my kids and I love making holidays special for them, most days I find myself thinking, "let's hurry and get them to bed so the real fun can begin." Kids can be sweet and funny, but they're too much work to be considered "real fun." I know that sounds terrible. But this year Valentine's Day proved me wrong. As we ate our candle lit dinner my fancy girls tried so hard to have good table manners. They told stories from school. They listened politely while their father delivered a speech about what real love is, and how their some-day boyfriend ought to treat them, and how special they are. (This speech is going to be an annual Valentine's tradition at our house). In the end the girls sat conjecturing on who they are going to marry and whether or not they will be willing to change their last name. I tucked them into bed afterward feeling like, "Wow. Our Valentine's Dinner was actually fun this year. With kids! Who would have thought?"

This year Valentine's Day gave me a glimpse into a future where we don't need to rush the kids into bed, we don't need to have friends over, or rent movies in order to have fun. I am envisioning a life where our little family is complete in itself, where we can enjoy each other and laugh until our sides hurt and just being together feels like enough.

As the last of the Valentine's candy is being picked through, the balloons are losing their helium, and my roses are beginning to open I can't help but reflect on how many kinds of love can support this controversial holiday. Single friends. The newly in love. The underslept and overworked young parents. And I imagine the older, wiser birds too. There are so many kinds of love to celebrate, and so many ways to fill your life with fun.

So until next year, my Valentines. I can't wait.

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