Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yep, Valentine’s Day

Some years ago I spent a most unusual Valentine’s evening having dinner with my parents. It was six weeks before my dad’s death. Not that we knew the day was so close but his strength was failing and we we could see that. Not known really for his romantic gestures Poppa wanted to give my mom a special dinner. I’ve learned that when we can’t do something it often becomes a thing we want to do very badly. And dad wanted mom to have a real Valentine’s Day dinner. A proper celebration. Prime rib and all the fixings. So mom took the assignment to make sure that she had a nice dinner and enlisted my aid to make it happen. We ordered prime rib take out from a favorite hotel, packed up a tablecloth, china, silverware, flowers, and were sure to get permission to use a conference room at the skilled-care facility as our dining room for the evening.

We got there, got Poppa down to the conference room and found it full of family. Not our family—another family. Somebody had given them permission to use the room too. A teen in a wheelchair-cum-gurney laden with equipment needed a Valentine’s dinner too. We would have been glad to share a dining room but the conference room barely held all his family so we were glad to find another spot. 

We ended up in the mini cafeteria that served as the employee break room. Actually it was one of Poppa’s favorite spots. He had full permission to wheel himself down and have all the diet soda and snacks he wanted. I was never sure it was truly policy, but the staff encouraged his movement, decision making, and independence. And for Valentine’s dinners they didn’t charge mom and I for soda. So, the break room it was with all the clinical ambience of hospital white melamine and fluorescent lighting for our formal little table. We ate, we talked. Poppa was grateful. It was a prime rib dinner for Valentine’s Day.

That dinner was a object lesson about how love (the noun) requires love (the verb). Caring about each other and showing it matter and take effort. A friend of mine says that location doesn’t matter only who you’re with. I like that. Recently he even stoically sat though a stage performance of Les Miserable (his spelling, it wasn’t his thing) because, hey, it was a long date with his wife! Love (the noun) requires love (the verb).

So on this Valentine’s Day here are my suggestions:

To all—
Remember that advertisers say what they say and show the images they show to make money not to enhance your relationships. Same goes for sappy shows. Don’t base your emotional health on somebody else’s money-making needs.

To those without a sugar—
Be glad love exists.
Don’t envy lovers the joy they have in each other.
If you have to mourn, do it privately.
If you have to eat a whole carton of ice cream, well, enjoy it don’t just shovel it in.

To those of with a sugar—
Love the person more than the gift.
If the roses wilt in a couple of days gently pull the petals off and dry them.
Don’t give the gift you want to give, give the gift your sugar wants to receive.
Enjoy the labor of love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras isn’t really my thing anymore. I’m not Catholic so there’s no preparing for Lent. I’m not a huge party person, so, you know, the revelry doesn’t appeal much. But, I was born in New Orleans and lived my first years looking forward to the annual Mardi Gras festivities. 

Here’s the Mardi Gras I remember—
For about a month we got to have a slice of king cake once a week during our reading group time at school. Once I even got the baby! It was a little nerve-wracking since I had to be queen for the week and I didn’t know how to handle that kind of attention. But, true to my New Orleans sweet tooth I would not have given up cake once a week for a month at school for shyness sake! King cake was one thing I really, really missed when I moved away.

We also had great fun at the Boy Scouts parade in our neighborhood. The troop was sponsored at church so I knew most of the paraders. Once my brother drove a little covered wagon pulled by a Shetland pony. I think it was a Shetland anyway. At this little event I could learn how to yell, “Throw me somethin’ mister!” and run and grab for treats and beads. I’m sure that I was too quiet for anyone to really hear and didn’t scramble like some of the other children but I learned how to do it all the same.

My mom and dad always took us to a parade downtown too. And sometimes a night parade. Those were exciting to a small girl. The parades by those big krews, Rex, Zulu, et al, were pretty raucous even way back then. I doubt mom and dad would have taken us to too many more. 

One of the most joyful things was going home and assessing all the treasures. Truly, Halloween candy hauls have nothing on Mardi Gras hauls: strings and strings of bead necklaces, ratchety noise makers, kazoos, candies—ahhh, the sweet life. I felt like I had a pirate treasure. Each year I remember how my stocks of Mardi Gras giveaways would slowly diminish and how I’d look forward to loading up again. 

I do, however, have one Mardi Gras heartbreak. I never got a dubloon. I wanted a real dubloon more than anything I could imagine. The gold, silver, and copper dubloons represent the coins that the Spanish grandees were once supposed to have tossed as they paraded down the streets on their horses. New Orleans has a lot of history and I loved the idea of the catching a dubloon and feeling like I had gotten a coin from a Spanish grandee. And it almost happened. At the very last Mardi Gras parade I attended I was standing on a step-ladder and a dubloon came my way. I couldn’t catch it but it fell at my feet and I stomped on it hard. It was mine! I thought it was probably only a copper dubloon but it was a dubloon—the thing I’d waited my whole life for. But, alas, before I retrieve it a little boy pried my foot up and snatched MY dubloon. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to yell thief, thief! But Mardi Gras is Mardi Gras so laissez les bons temps roulez, y’all!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


At church on Sunday there was a family with a six-month-old baby sitting behind me and baby was just over my left shoulder. On the row in front of me was a family with a two year old sitting just one spot to my left. Needless to say, the two year old caught sight of the baby. And she did all the things we do when we spot a baby: she gazed at him, she smiled, she made a face, she wiggled her fingers, she alerted her dad that there was a baby, she kept the baby's attention as long as she could.

Of course, time goes by and a baby she can't touch, talk to, or hold can't keep her attention engaged forever. Twenty minutes later she and I had prettty much the same exchange. We gazed at eath other, she gave me her "shall we play" look (this is the one that's going drive her dad crazy in a few years), she teased me as to whether she'd share her pretzels, we wiggled our fingers at each other, we smiled, and we touched our hands together a bit.

Engaging each other is pretty simple really. Some of us are really skilled at it and some, like me, do better with children and friends. But I'm working at it. Smiles are good. Just looking up and being aware of people around you is good. Be a little engaging today, it's good for you.