Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What I Did for Love...

I got a very thoughtful emailed heads up from a fellow blogger today indicating the reason I might not have received any comments expressing Valentine's Day wishes on my rosy posey post Sunday was because I had somehow inadvertently tinkered with the comment settings in a not so helpful way.

Truth is, I had not yet checked for comments on that post.  Partly I was busy with family plans, but partly I fell prey to the lingering scars of Valentine Days past, particularly one nasty Valentine's Day in elementary school when I first learned about unrequited affection.

My teacher that year may have had her own ghosts of Valentine's Days past (in those days all the elementary school teachers were female). Perhaps she was inexperienced, maybe she was embittered beyond caring, whatever the reason behind it, she did not, as had all my teachers before then and all the teachers after that, clearly insist every student in the class make or bring a valentine for every other student.

In the late 1950's through the 1960's a Valentine's Day student exchange was such common practice juvenile valentine cards were sold in packs of 25 conforming to the state mandated elementary school class size.  Each selection featured a slightly larger "To Teacher" version as part of the set.  You bought a pack, you signed the back and filled out the "To:_____" on the envelopes with the assistance of an aromatic purple smudged mimeographed list of names sent home by your teacher the week before.

Other than the missing admonition to bring a card for every student, my teacher that year followed the well prescribed routine.  At the beginning of February we were told to bring a shoebox from home.  We spent our art periods both weeks prior to the 14th swimming among doilies, adrift in a sea of pink and red construction paper provided so we could sufficiently smother our our mail box with gluey hand made hearts and flowers.

This year our teacher stated simply that on the day of our party we would start our studies ten minutes after the morning bell to allow us time to deliver our valentines.  She announced further to our mounting excitement we would have punch and cookies provided by our Home Room Mother right before the final bell of the day.  This was it, our Valentine's Class Party, during which time we could open our mailboxes in sugary bliss.  There were giggles and squeals.  A party!  At school!  The novelty was nearly excruciating.

It would never have occurred to me at that age to buy a full pack of valentine cards and not distribute every last one of them.  To buy and not use was unheard of in our home.  To leave anybody out intentionally was simply not our way.  My brother and I were similarly instructed we could invite everybody [or nobody] to birthday parties.  The cruelty, recognized or not, to intentionally select some and ignore others was simply not a feature of The Universe According to My Mom.

That this was not necessarily the case for all my school mates was soon to be discovered.

The day arrived, the party began and it was rapidly apparent that I, among others, did not have as many cards as there were students.  Some of my valentines were unsigned, making it impossible to know precisely who had smiled and who had withheld, but glancing around, I, along with a few other girls just savvy enough to know we'd been snubbed, all sat there mutually red faced for an excruciating 10 minutes while we waited for the bell to signal our release.

I learned a lot that year, some of it about arithmetic and capitals, spelling and chief exports.  But most of what I remember learning that year was about how cruel the world can be when left to its own devices.  I began that year to understand the heart as a vulnerable organ.  I was beginning to see how much courage it took to express affection with no guarantee of return.

That trauma aside, I took my lumps and heeded my Mother's philosophy.  The best measure of love, she taught us, was if we had given the ones we loved our all, with no thought to what we might gain in return.  She insisted love is only love if it is freely given, with no strings and no expectations.

Now, though I try to avoid clich├ęs, I tend to go all out for Valentine's Day.  I still perform what is, for me, a version of that "a card for every student in the class" mandate.

This year that took the form of a delicious Niman Ranch ribeye dinner along with specially selected gifts for my loved ones.

I went all out (for me), making herbed butter, harvesting lettuces from the garden for our salads.

I even baked a cake for dessert.

I'm gratified it all tasted good, but because I did what I did with love, for people I love unconditionally, this particular dinner and by extension our shared St. Valentine's Day celebration was a success long before the food hit our plates or our palates.

I am hopeful your history with Valentine's Day is not a checkered one.  But whether or not you count yourself as the fortunate participant in a string of requited loving exchanges, I wish for you the freedom to express all the love you have without fear that its measure is somehow in the hands of others. I promise you, my Mother had it right all along.


Kathleen Scott said...

Beautiful, Deb, and moving. Your mother gave you the best gift and you're passing it along.

TexasDeb said...

Thanks Kat. I like to think if my Mom was still kicking around she'd be busy texting folks, like yours.... Have a lovely Wednesday!

Iris said...

I got goosebumps reading this, Deb. Love the way you write and being reminded of real.

TexasDeb said...

Iris you are too sweet. Thanks as always for being such a constant reader. I really appreciate it!

PassivePastry said...

i can comment now! yay!
put up a new post so i can comment on it. :)

TexasDeb said...

Yay indeed! But keep yer pants on young lady - I'll get a post up as soon I as finish polishing our coasters and dusting the placemats... We are having guests for two weeks so I might take a while.

deb said...

This was one of those poignant bittersweet posts.
As is life so often.

And how we move on with grace from this stuff is the most important.

TexasDeb said...

deb: You are on to something there, grace is IT, isn't it... Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment - hope you'll be back!