This last December Bill and I celebrated fifty-five years of marriage. Much water has gone over the dam since I gave him the card I made that day on the bus. We have celebrated the marriages of our three children, the births of seven grandchildren, and been prime audience for countless school programs, ball games, theater opening nights, rock band concerts, book and poetry publication releases, junior high, high school, and college commencements of our amazing grandchildren.
Over the years we have weathered both financial gains and losses. Bill has built hundreds of fires in our kitchen fireplace, at campsites, at the cabin in the woods, and in the huge fire pit by the creek. I have served thousands of meals at our old oak table and hauled wagonloads of fixins’ to the creek for cook-outs.
We have hosted more events than we can count and thrown musical parties in every state and many foreign countries. We have agreed, disagreed, celebrated, cried, laughed, debated, and made love more than any couple I know. We have spent very little time doing anything we weren’t passionate about.
Now these decades later, if I were to write a new valentine, I would have to go back to a very old concept: Maybe love is something magic after all.
To my valentine—
Somewhere midstream I wrote you a valentine trying to catch the illusive thing our culture calls falling in love. "When did I start to love you,” the poem asked. The conclusion then was that love comes gradually, defying shallow romantic assumptions, to hook our souls at unexpected times in the process of living regular days. Things like moments of unexpected kindness—a warm coat thrown around shoulders on a chilly evening, a reminiscent note saved in a drawer, a meeting of eyes in a crowded room that tells a private joke or suggests an intimate yearning.
Sometimes, I thought love catches one’s heart like a fishing hook left to drag along the bottom of a lake catches a dozing catfish and thus comes partnered to pain: the pain of the grief a sudden death brings, the pain of fear when a child is threatened by disease or accident, the pain of failure. I concluded then that love is a process that may begin with a moment of infatuation, admiration and sexual longing, but is ultimately defined by what it endures, experiences, and celebrates.
Now that we two have walked together over half a century. Can that be possible? And today, I am giving a little more credit to “falling in love” than I once did. What else but something both divine and magical, mystical and romantic, could have held us? What else could have gotten me willingly out of bed on the darkest mornings to make the coffee, build a fire, make something surprising and beautiful—an arrangement of flowers, an arrangement of words, an arrangement of children? What else could have made me care enough to fix my hair, put on my make-up, put on the roast or the black bean soup, care for the garden, fold the clothes, pick up the dishes, clean off the counter?
What else would have made you make eating-out plans, build another bonfire, get out the convertible, plant another tree, run your hands over my skin, write another melody?
The tensions we have together endured boggle my mind. The May dance of vocation, dipping and weaving, around this common pole would not have been attempted by anyone, us included, had not there been some magic to fall back on, some ethereal climate to infuse the days with spirit-energy.
I’m coming to believe that magic doesn’t get nearly enough credit these days. It’s the healer of hurts. It is the harp player for the despondent. It is the irresistible partner that insists on the dance when you are certain your feet won’t move anymore. It is the hint of music that keeps breaking through to the subconscious when reality has worn the conscious to tatters.
If you were to ask me today, “When did you start to love me?” I would answer more in adolescent phrases, those phrases that make up old love songs:
…when you touched my hand
…when your lips met mine
…when my heart sensed you in the room
…when I heard that old melody
…when sunshine made me cry
…when I felt the baby move
…when autumn leaves start to fall
All those other things—the times our love endured—gave our love dimension breadth and depth and height. It strengthened its music, streamlined its sinew, made it resilient. But we survived, endured, and conquered because of some fragile moment that drifted on the fragrant breeze of one Indiana Spring. It had neither logic nor reason.
We fell in love one day long ago, and in spite of everything, because of everything, I love you still. Kiss me, touch me, and all the reasons I might logically leave you melt in the sunshine of your love.
P. S. Thanks for the long-stemmed red roses and chocolate!