Saturday, February 18, 2017


For years, I prepared a Valentine's feast for the family. Once we had a few kids and an injured mother in law to care for, it seemed torturous to consider going out for dinner date, facing the masses on a greeting card manufactured holiday created to feed the consumer machine. We love French bistro food, so I decorated the table with tablecloth, candles, the fancy china and silver, cut out red and pink hearts, and lovingly prepared steak, true pommes frites, a salad and queen of sheba cake, a divine, ground almonds and dark chocolate confection.

Philip and I would share champagne and red wine, and it felt like true love, offering the gift of myself to the kids and my husband and the addition of a mother in law occasionally. Nothing contrived, or artificial, just sweet tradition.

The frites were a pain to make, the precision slicing, the twice frying, the mess of the stove afterword! But seeing the faces of my dear ones, my true loves, sitting around a beautiful table, made it worth all the work.

Then he died, ten days after Valentine's day.

I tried to keep up the tradition, but it felt like blackness, as the grief would swirl and none of us would know how to be, without his presence there anymore. We kept trying, but after moving here, we tried to change it up a few years. A couple of times we went to a dance in Valentine, TX on Valentine's day. That was kind of fun, but the kids were miserable, because their orbit felt thrown off by the change. They did something with friends one year, and I went camping to Big Bend by myself for a couple of nights, books of poetry and a cooler of good food, hungry for the romance of the solitude in the desert. That was pretty awesome, and felt good.

This year, my parents are with us.

I felt a real desire to bless my family, different flavor, same love, with our old tradition, a few twists. I decorated the table, set out lovely dishes, the real silver, lots of candles. Rose and Nora are vegetarians. Hmmm. Suddenly the steak frites seems like the wrong feast for this family. I made a pasta spinach alfredo, braised broccoli with lots of garlic the way Nora likes, sauteed green beans the way Rose likes, Rosemary slow roasted chicken legs, the way Thomas and I like.

Mom and Dad came over, the six of us, grateful around the table, love and beauty and Beethoven on the record player. Champagne for me and Dad. Pomegranate juice for mom and the kids.

As a gift, I did the cleanup, Frank crooning on vinyl, peace, hope, joy filled my heart. Very lovely memories of days of yore, all the different flavored ones. Philip memories, memories with the good man I dated here, and ways we tried to navigate the old and new, oh, so complicated, but also rich. And now new ways of making memories with my kids, who are quickly growing up and flying away, and my parents, this tender and vulnerable season in their life, joined up with ours, oh, how good!

Sometimes I want to be cynical about romance. Especially in conjunction with manufactured holidays that leave many of us feeling lonely and alone.

But then I change my mind! I want to embrace the opportunity to show love to my loved ones! Why not? Life is short. It is sweet to give my dear family a moment of romance, even if it isn't the kind of romance based on the pure definition involving eros. I just want to offer them a sensuous meal, rich in the senses, have them feel lavishly offered the gift of beauty and good food, a nice scattering of chocolate.

It feels really good to be where I am in life right now.

Perhaps that sounds crazy, when I occasionally offer up cries of lament. A mixed bag.

I grieve the world of politics and the strife. I grieve the pain of many of my friends in their life situations. I grieve our own losses. Perhaps that is why I felt extra thankful this year as we sat around our dining room table and offered our prayer of gratitude. I can't imagine anything else I could have wanted on that day and moment in time.

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