Ginger is coming home tomorrow for one main reason: it’s Valentine’s Day.
We had only been dating a couple of weeks when our first Valentine’s Day came around. I took her to the Hard Rock Café in Dallas because that was her favorite place. Though we had not been going out long, we both had a sense that something important was happening between us. A live band was playing that night. In the middle of the set, the lead singer proposed to his girlfriend and they brought champagne out to everyone. Ginger and I both spilled our glasses. She looked great that night – and she had on a hat (after all, it was the late 80s). The hat I remember because when we got to the car and I went to unlock her door, I kissed her – and it was a great kiss, enough to knock her hat off.
I’m saving another one for the airport tomorrow night.
At work the other day someone was writing off Valentine’s Day as another “Hallmark Holiday.” They said they didn’t participate because they thought the whole thing was overly sentimental and commercial. A third person standing there asked me what I did for Valentine’s and I said, “Commercial or not, I figure I’m not going to miss a chance to tell Ginger how much I love her. I’m in for the roses and the chocolates – the whole bit.” The date is arbitrary, as far as I’m concerned, but loving my wife is too much fun to let cynicism win the day.
The other nemesis of love is obligation. Most all of the male DJs I heard today were reminding their (mostly male) listeners to get their flower orders in so they didn’t end up in the dog house. Our NPR stations use the day as a fundraiser, offering to send roses and chocolates for a pledge to public radio, thus killing two obligations at once. In church we make the distinction between habit and ritual. Habit is doing something because you’ve gotten used to doing it that way or you feel like you have to do it that way. Ritual is meaningful repetition: you don’t have to keep the tradition but you do because it’s meaningful and you take time to remember why it means something even as you do it. Eighteen Valentine’s Days into our relationship I’m grateful for the marker, even as we stack up the stones once again.
When I talked to Ginger last night, she said her father had had a rough day and he and her mother had gotten cross with each other at one point. Ginger talked about what a tender moment it was to watch them work to find each other, knowing they had hurt each other’s feelings and wanting to make things right. “You could just see how much they love each other,” she said.
The story reminded me of a verse from Marc Cohn’s song, “True Companion”:
When the years have done irreparable harm
I can see us walking slowly arm in arm
Just like the couple on the corner do
’cause girl I will always be in love with you
And when I look in your eyes
I’ll still see that spark
Until the shadows fall
Until the room grows dark
Then when i leave this earth
I’ll be with the angels standin’
I’ll be out there waiting for my true companion
Just for my true companion
Both Ginger and I uncharacteristically asked for specific things this Valentine’s: she asked for me to get the house cleaned before she came home and I asked for Patty Griffin’s new album. I listened to an interview with her on NPR, where they also have a link to hefr new single, “Heavenly Day.” Once more, she is providing the soundtrack of my life:
Oh heavenly day, all the clouds blew away
Got no trouble today with anyone
The smile on your face I live only to see
It’s enough for me, baby, it’s enough for me
Oh, heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day
Tomorrow may rain with sorrow
Here’s a little time we can borrow
Forget all our troubles in these moments so few
All we’ve got right now, the only thing that
All we really have to do
Is have ourselves a heavenly day
Lay here and watch the trees sway
Oh, can’t see no other way, no way, no way
Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day
No one at my shoulder bringing me fears
Got no clouds up above me bringing me tears
Got nothing to tell you, I’ve got nothing much to say
Only I’m glad to be here with you
On this heavenly, heavenly, heavenly, heavenly
Heavenly day, all the trouble’s gone away
Oh, for a while anyway, for a while anyway
Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day
If the weather forecast is correct, Ginger’s going to fly in with a Nor’easter tomorrow afternoon and we will drive home together in the snow. The roses will be waiting at home; I’ll take the chocolates with me to the airport. This year is hardly fifty days old and we have already dealt with my job loss and her father’s cancer. Come Thursday morning, she will head back to work and we will try to find our usual rhythm. I’m glad tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, Hallmark or not, because I get a chance to do my best to make it a heavenly day for her.
Even if it is just for a little while.