As I drove into work, this morning, I thought of beignets and New Orleans; as I ate the chocolate chip scone a dear girlfriend’s daughter handed me for Valentine’s day. What a busy week they must be having down there. Parades and beads on Fat Tuesday, ashes on Ash Wednesday and flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s, today. I imagine everyone in various colors of dress and the party-like atmosphere that, only N.O. has. Visions of gumbo and fried okra filter into my mind and I see couples sitting at quaint, French bistro like tables; a vase of flowers with tea light candles, set for two. Live jazz would be heard, on Bourbon Street, as people enjoyed a romantic lunch or dinner for Valentine’s day.
Camera, in-hand, I venture out of the office into the shop; far removed from the imaginings of my mind. My mate is sweeping up scrap metal on the shop floor in his uniform of plaid and black. His hands are greasy but busy. I show him a picture of the mailboxes that I am compiling in the office for our boys, for Valentine’s day, and ask him to write a note; just for fun. He’s holding steel tools in his hand; things I have no idea what they do. click.
“What on earth are you doing?” he asks. I ask him to snap a picture of my heart pendant that I have been wearing this week. I cringe as his greasy hands handle my camera, but he’s careful and quickly snaps the shot.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I tell him.
He grins and looks at me as if I have lost my mind. I’ve put together mailboxes for my sons, but have nothing for my mate. Something is wrong with this picture.
Interestingly enough, my boys were very specific about Valentine’s day. They are accustomed to my “themes” and decor. They are officially done with anything Chinese and when I asked them, on Fat Tuesday, what great meal they’d like to have before the very solemn beginning of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, they plotted a Valentine’s day meal instead. The boys rapidly yelled their ideas to me as I made my list. Fancy dishes and table set for five. Could I please use the fancy napkins for our meal? One remembers the flowers in the vase; another says to buy Hershey’s Dove chocolate. Dinner is to be: steak, shrimp scampi, potatoes, a vegetable that is NOT broccoli, salad and a large chocolate cookie cake with chocolate covered strawberries on the side. And we must have Martinellis to toast. Don’t forget the candles. But I have no candles….
I type the above and my stomach grumbled. Yesterday, for Ash Wednesday, I decided to fast. I don’t usually do this but yesterday I did. I thought of my girlfriend who fasts for the month of Ramadan. How she does this for an entire month, I have no idea. Granted, she is able to eat at sundown and before sunrise, but still! I only drank fluids: mostly tea, milk and water and as I fed the boys cheese pizza for dinner; my head hurt. Surprisingly, fasting wasn’t as bad as I thought. It is all mental. In theory, when you give up something, you realize how good things truly are. This is a recurring mantra for me so, since I learn best by physically doing/moving; I thought, why not?
Surprisingly, it was not that hard. Yes. I was hungry and I had a killer headache. And I felt cold. But I appreciated the hot tea and the home that keeps me warm. The boys wondered aloud how Jesus could go without food or water for forty days, in a desert. And did he have to wear the cross of ashes on his forehead too? Did he not eat meat on Ash Wednesday or Fridays? Lol.
Today’s feast will be more than welcome. I’m happily creating the to-do list in my head; my plate is already full. I am learning to say no to create better yeses. Normally, productivity drives me; the more things I do and create, the more useful and valued I am. I’m realizing, this may be true in some cases; but I also need mental time filled with nothing. I am always filling up others’ cups; never filling my own. So this Lent; I strive for balance. What will I give up for Lent? I will give up efficiency for meditation. Busy-ness for centered-ness. Balance. Forty days of balance, can I really do this?
Marriage isn’t always flowers and chocolates. It’s the every day, the details. I write in my notes to my sons that, someday, remember our Valentine’s dinners together. One day they will be buying dinner, flowers and chocolates for someone else. I am grooming them to be thoughtful and considerate men; just like their father. Dave and I did the New Orleans thing. But as I stare at my, slightly disheveled, greasy hands husband writing Valentine’s notes to our sons, the love remains. Those things don’t seem to matter now; we’ve still got each other. For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. Happy Valentine’s Day.