On Valentine’s Day, Love (Not Romance) is What Matters

Our Valentine’s Day celebrations are even more pathetic understated than usual this year. Many years, Daniel and I have purchased a premade four-course Valentine’s Day dinner from a local pasta shop. For about $60 and the minimal labor of assembling the salad and heating up the main course, we can eat a restaurant-quality meal in our own home after the kids have gone to bed. But as we don’t have a functioning kitchen right now, even such minimal kitchen work is daunting. Many years, I also get small Valentine’s gifts for my kids. But between the kitchen renovation, snowstorms, and several looming work deadlines, I haven’t pulled anything together this year. (Last year, I had my act together and not only bought small gifts for the kids, but also wrote about why I did it. For another reflection on why parents celebrate Valentine’s Day with their children, read Alison Hodgson’s article over at Houzz.com.) Valentine’s Day 2014 is likely to be just another regular school day, except that the two younger children will bring home cards and treats from classmates.

I’ll miss even our modest Valentine’s Day celebrations. Next year we’ll do better. But I’m especially aware during this chaotic, cold time in my family’s life, when we are quite obviously yearning for some better future of sun-warmed days and cooking in a bright new kitchen, of what love—real love, everyday love, love in action—looks like.

Love is….

…my husband waking at 5 a.m. to clear our front walk and long driveway of snow and ice before he leaves for work, being especially thorough so that I don’t fall on the ice and get hurt.

…my 14-year-old daughter asking if I want to watch an episode of Sherlock online with her, and leaning her head on my shoulder as we watch, warm under several blankets as the snow swirls outside.

…my 10-year-old daughter telling me before school that she can’t wait to be greeted by her friend Rebecca, who doesn’t speak many words but knows the power of a hug and a shared laugh.

…my 8-year-old son asking permission to make himself a cup of hot cocoa for breakfast using our Keurig coffee machine, then surprising me five minutes later with the cup of coffee he actually made—for me.

Right now, I’m reading Sara Miles’s new book City of God (which I’ll be reviewing for the next print edition of the Englewood Review of Books). Just a few pages in there’s a conversation between Miles and her pastor, about sin, repentance, and forgiveness. Her pastor says that Jesus really doesn’t care about our feelings. What matters isn’t that we feel sorry about our sins. What matters is that we take action to change. That’s true for Jesus and sin and repentance, and I think it’s also true for marital and familial love. For all of our chatter about spouses needing “date nights” to reconnect, our daily actions matter far more than occasional interludes to rekindle romance. What I feel about our family life right now is that I wish it were April, when we can get out of this dark, cramped house and wash dishes somewhere other than the upstairs bathtub. I don’t feel all that loving this Valentine’s Day. I feel sluggish and impatient. But love abounds anyway, in all the ways we continue to put our connections with one another at the top of the priority list, in all the actions we undertake to say to one another, “You matter.”

This Valentine’s Day, an impeccably cleared driveway and front walk greeted me instead of a box of chocolates or plans for a delicious dinner. I can’t think of a better way to mark a holiday that celebrates love.


 

About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at http://ellenpainterdollar.com for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.

  • Y. A. Warren

    I have come to hate the forced frivolity of “hallmark” holidays. I am so grateful for my almost certainly Asperger’s, scientific as Mr. Spock, husband’s good sense since we met. He stated that gifts seem to be a set-up for disappointment, and that we do better picking out what we want and like for ourselves. We buy no gifts for each other; we simply attempt to cherish each moment we share. It don’t get no better than this in earth! I love that man, even though he doesn’t understand any concept of emotion other than our actions.


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