I generally ignore minor holidays like this one, but am reflecting today on love. I’ve been very fortunate to have been the recipient of so much love in my life, and to have had the opportunities to give love as often as I have; to friends, relatives, and those I have been involved with romantically. Ultimately, my son is the ultimate valentine, and he will forever have my heart within his grasp (no, not in the creepy way), even when he eventually pushes me away and flies solo.
My first loves were, of course, my immediate family. Before I knew my Dad was a damaged person and my Mom was earnest but far from perfect, they were the rocks I orbited around. And my older sister, who cleared paths for me my entire childhood, from hitting kids with her bookbag on the playground in elementary school who were picking on me, to walking around the outside of our high school one summer day, the summer after 8th grade, until she found an open door. She gave me a detailed tour of the building so I wouldn’t be lost or bewildered my first day in such a big school, indicating “safe” places I could go if I were lost or confused, like the band room, where Mr. C. the orchestra/band leader, would help, or Mr. Heck’s room up on the top floor, who I wouldn’t have for a teacher for many years but would help me if I were lost. And Mr. Baker’s room, who would become my Latin teacher sophomore through senior years. She told me about the different periods for lunch and which one I would have, because the orch people all ate in the same lunch period. She did the same thing for me with college, as we went to the same school, and she was finishing up her last semester during my first one, so we actually got to take a class together (Human Sexuality, which was REALLY FUNNY). She took me all over campus, told me how things worked and what to do and not do, how to get around, where the food was palatable and how to take the bus to giant eagle, or to walk downtown to Franklin Square Deli.
Romantic love started really early for me. I chased a boy on Sadie Hawkins Day to try to get him to kiss me; that was 2nd grade. Also when I was in 2nd grade, I told a 5th grade girl I thought she was pretty and that I liked her, and she said she liked me too and I swooned. I got my first marriage proposal at 15, though it was a strings-attached kind of deal, because my boyfriend, who was Arabic, needed to be able to stay legally in the country while he worked for a semester to get enough money to continue his college schooling. He offered my Mom what was, to us then, on welfare and food stamps, a TON of money, saying we could get the marriage annulled after a year. I just didn’t want to be married and divorced before I was even out of high school so I declined.
I’ve been lucky enough to have received the love of many boyfriends, girlfriends, and platonic friends since then, and feel very fortunate. 10 marriage proposals and 4 engagements and lots of stuff in between. These stories are part of the fabric of my life and however the relationships turned out, each meant a lot to me and have made me who I am.
Whoever you are, reading this today, I love you. Thank you for being part of my life.