Tuesday, February 19, 2008

happy (late) valentine's day

Happy Valentine’s Day.

I know. I'm late. I'm a notorious procrastinator; didn't you read my profile? But I'm going to go with the whole "better late than never" thing here, so before it gets to be St. Patrick's Day, Happy Valentine's Day.

I'm actually someone who likes holidays a lot. Christmas has always been one of my favorite days of the year despite its inherent connection with cold and snow and winter. I love the joy of Easter, the warmth of Thanksgiving, the celebratory excitement of the Fourth of July, and all of the pomp and circumstance that holidays bring with them. Even minor holidays (like the aforementioned St. Patty's Day) bring a smile to my face--well, that one does give me an excuse to speak in an Irish accent all day, which is always fun--so I guess one could say I'm pretty much down with the whole holiday thing.

Valentine's Day, though, I have to admit, was not one of my favorites for most of my life. As an adult, it has been a day to celebrate our relationship with my spouse when I have been married but it has also been a day to mourn the fact that I'm not in a relationship otherwise. I think I had truly "Happy Valentine's Days" between ages 20 and 30, when my relationship with my first spouse was growing and strong. In the declining years of our marriage and in my forties...not so much. In fact, in my forties, I went through a bizarre decade in which I always seemed either to break up with someone just before Feb 14 or to begin a relationship in early March. With the exception of cards to my daughters, I don’t think that I had written the phrase “Happy Valentine’s Day” in twenty years before I met Dirk.

Not that the day was meaningless. It's my mother's birthday, for one thing, so it's a day I always remember. But, like Arbor Day and Flag Day, it had become a holiday whose meaning had been lost to me. I got to V-Day and all I could see were little candy hearts. Nothing more. It is one of those elements of life that is probably interesting to some strange person somewhere, but certainly not to me. I’m not going to give the matter a second thought.

Well, maybe a second thought. When I was seven years old, what did I possibly know of Valentine’s Day? It was a holiday--those were awfully important in grammar school, where my infatuation with themed days undoubtedly originated. (Remember decorating classrooms with autumn leaves, Ninas, Pintas, and Santa Marias, pumpkins, turkeys, Christmas trees, snowflakes, Lincoln top hats, Easter eggs, flowers, or whatever else was appropriate? With all of the fuss, how did we ever learn anything?) Anyway, it was a holiday, but to me it was undoubtedly the worst one of the year.

First of all, we didn’t get the day off of school. (How can any day be a holiday if you have to go to school?) Second, it was painful. I suppose it was not painful if you were well-liked, but I was the weird child, the one people picked on. And I was also the child who never got any valentines. Well, not never. I mean, I got some, but only token ones from the kids who sent them to absolutely everyone. (Although I do recall one little fledgling s*** who actually sent them to everyone except me. I mean, really: who teaches second graders that kind of cruelty?) And the kids were not the only cruel ones. The teachers always had everyone pass out the valentines right there in class. We would wander around the room, placing cards on various desks. Of course, I always brought one for everyone. (Both boys and girls. It can’t hurt to cover all bases.) But no one returned the favor. So while Suzy Sweetheart and Peter Popular were enjoying digging their way out from the mountains of valentines that turned their desks into termite mounds (not exactly an appropriate image, I know, but it does reflect just about how I felt about the holiday) I was sitting there trying to crawl inside of my desk with the two lousy cards on it.

Such are the torments of the Valentine’s Days of my joyous youth. May they rest in peace with all of the other hells of my childhood.

Now, as I said, the Valentine’s Days of my adulthood are much more palatable. For one thing, it was on Valentine’s Day that I met my former spouse, so it was an anniversary of sorts. True story: we were working at this greasy spoon in Evanston while we both attended Northwestern (note the clever, unobtrusive reference to my alma mater; it’s nice to have graduated from there, at least if you live in the Midwest--it sure sounds impressive). We met some time in the winter when our schedules changed and we both ended up working mornings. Several years later we went back to our old schedule books on a whim--since we were in school we kept assignment books, and since we were pack rats we never threw anything away--curious to discover exactly what day it had been when we first met. And there it was: February 14. Obviously a match made in heaven. At least for a while.

So all Valentine’s Days were fun for a while. And of course my daughter Julie’s birthday is the next week; she was born on February 19, 1992. (Her birthday is today: Sweet Sixteen. I think it is something psychological that is preventing me from writing about that. I can hardly believe it anyway; it seems less than a week since we woke up at 3 AM and made our way to the hospital where, a sleepless night and morning later, we found ourselves the parents of a second daughter. Goddess, how time flies.) And now that I am married again, my husband sees to it that Valentine's Day is special. This year, after a lovely pre-V-Day dinner (he needed to go to Wisconsin on the 14th) and a romantic evening of watching An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle, I had a bit of work to do so he went to bed first. When I joined him upstairs, I found two dozen red roses in a vase in the bathroom sink.

All in all, I guess it is a fairly decent little holiday, if you do not happen to be the weird kid in the back of the room.

Perhaps I shouldn't have given into my tendencies toward procrastination; perhaps I should have written this last week. Perhaps I should take a moment or so to discuss procrastination. (I could just end this right now with a line like, “but I don’t have time right now, so I’ll do it next week,” or something, but I won’t.) It's easy to put things off; it's easy to fall behind, to pretend that it really isn't important if little things go undone. I find that this small lie makes up a huge part of my life. Maybe the minor but nagging health issues I've been dealing with give me an excuse for procrastination; I’m not sure. But the fact remains that I do constantly have a bit of trouble fitting it all in. And I could lie to myself and say that it’s school or church or this or that, or it’s the family, or it's (fill in the blank with whatever the excuse du jour happens to be).

But the truth is that it has always been thus: in college, I was the world’s worst procrastinator. I would put off for entire quarters the assignments which had no check quizzes or interim papers. It would be the ninth week of the quarter and I would need to read Great Expectations, The Collected Novels of Ernest Hemingway, and Moby Dick, write a twenty-page Philosophy paper, and do a research project on the migration of the Australian earthworm, all due in five days. I would literally make myself a schedule (including such items as “4:15 AM to 6:45 AM--sleep”) and stick to it for a week from hell. But I would get it done. And, dragging my corpselike body into the bed for about 50 hours of recuperative relaxation, I would swear on a stack of Bibles and on my mother’s grave (which, I suppose, shouldn’t count, since she is not dead, but those are the easiest vows to make, aren’t they?) that I would never do it again. And then, ten weeks later, while I was trying to write a twelve page paper on Sexual Frustration in the Book of Genesis or some such topic, I would wonder how I ever kept getting into this mess.

I used to have this anxiety dream. It was a fairly popular one, as such dreams go. It was the last day of school, and I suddenly remembered that I had not even attended a certain class the entire semester. I needed to turn in two major papers in order to pass, but I didn’t have the foggiest notion of what the course was about. Without them, I’d fail, and if I failed, I would not graduate. The weird thing about this dream is that, after I had it, I would actually believe the damn thing days later when it would pop into my mind. I would break out into a cold sweat until I realized that the course in question was all in a dream. The weirder thing is that I was having this dream well into my thirties, over a decade after I had finished school. That’s what procrastination does to you: you are never quite sure just what you might have put off.

It’s a dangerous way to live. You end up wishing people a Happy Valentine's Day on the 19th.


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it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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