Thursday, February 12, 2009
Courting, Marriage, and Valentine's Day
I know it isn't Valentine's Day yet, but in case you forgot think of this as your head's up. Here are some thoughts about courting, marriage, and Valentine's Day.
My desk, where you'll usually find me when I'm home, is next to a sliding glass door. There's a snowball bush at the fenceline where John has put a bird feeder and nearby, a bird bath. I love to take a break when I'm reading or knitting to watch the little wild birds. Yesterday there were two small birds on the ground, dancing and chattering, jumping up and down, bowing, and flying a few feet away from each other and then flying back. They kept this up for nearly five minutes. Clearly they were courting. It was both comical and endearing.
I was leafing through an old magazine when I came across an article entitled "the secret to a lasting marriage" and, of course, I had to read it. There weren't any surprises. The "secrets" included playfulness, choosing to stay in love, unusual gifts, communication, going on dates, kissing every day, and having a sense of humor. The secret the editors judged as the best one, though, was "Marry someone you love exactly as they are and be sure they feel the same. That way you'll never expect more of each other than you are each happy to give." I thought about this and it's true, but only true to a point. The reality is that we change and grow as human beings and as marriage partners. We adapt to each other and, if we're very lucky, we bring out the best in both ourselves and in our spouse as we grow older. We adapt, we are flexible, we listen more than we talk, and, as the years pass, we have shared memories, private jokes, and code words. We continue to chatter to each other in our secret language, we fly away from each other and then back again. In many ways we act very much like the little wild birds I described above.
I know there are some who don't like Valentine's Day and view it as being just another commercial holiday and another way for retailers to encourage people to spend money. This commentary entitled Don't Be My Valentine sums that argument up quite well. And I think this is true if one believes that all Valentine's Day means is chocolates, flowers, cards, gifts, and dinner out.
That isn't what Valentine's Day is for me. By mid-February I've become tired of winter. I am not entranced by snow or the idea of snow. I see treachery in ice, not beauty. I'm sick of gray skies, bitter winds, and cold rain. I long for warm sunshine, rows of hollyhocks, and sweet peas along the fence. And I know I'll have to wait weeks more for spring. Valentine's Day represents hope that spring will come again. And it reminds me that sometimes we have to live through some unpleasantness and hard patches and just wait and be patient.