Been illustrating a fun project this week… True life tearooms dotting the English landscape! This one reminds me of a lovely surprise Valentine by the sea. :) Won’t you wander with me through the Cotswolds, Selworthy and Devon, here? People and Landscapes After the English Heart
A different sort of Valentine, bubble-protected in an unexpected manila envelope, slipped into my mail box yesterday. No note… but with tell-tale West Coast address on the outside…in the writing of an old family friend. One whose family grew up with ours, spent many a day and vacation and holiday together. Mertzes to our Ricardos, only kids on both sides.
Cutting away the paper edge, my fingers tugged at the red tissue folded and seemingly stuck within. Until there it was… a simple message of friendship, no words needed. Just a piece of square cable-stitched knit, with a heart-woven design… like a swatch from a beautiful cream-colored Irish sweater… in my hand.
I held it on my palm, soft as a snowflake threaded with loving care.
A memory of last Valentine’s Day flitted, unbid, across my mind… Dad’s first day in a dark and dreary rehab room after three weeks of hospital deterioration. The cheery, heavy-accented nurse who coaxed actual smiles out of him with her geared-to-get-him-out-of-himself chatter.
“Ju know – it’s balentine’s day, ‘oney?” she bustled round him, snipping his fingernails lightning quick ahead of his outburst against such ministering, and striking me with awe at her nimble dexterity with the gruff and resistant. Her joyous effervescence.
And Daniel…the crusty, barnacle-hearted 90-year old over on the other side of the room. Deeply deaf to the point of loudly barking every word he enunciated, gravel-throated, grousing and spewing his anger at his circumstances and over all who would pay him any mind. Justified in many ways, as I was to discover with the unpalatable food he was served that caused him no end of problems. And his dark loneliness at being stuck there, alone most of the time. Unabashedly coming down on us to his visiting daughter for us “spoiling dad” with our 12-hour day attentions, spitting those words out like distasteful morsels. Yet, somehow… maybe with a touch of, ‘wish you would be here more,’ too?
“I was a policeman in Maryland for forty-five years,” he later pronounced several times to us in his overbearing, stentorian tones. “When my wife died, I raised my two little girls all by myself! This food is a swill bucket in here…!” He glanced up at me as if over spectacles, a look of disdain and false bravado, I’m sure I have you whippersnappers stumped, in his eyes. “Do you know what a swill bucket is?” he snarled.
I gave him the definition. “Well,” he spluttered, “you got it. That’s what this place is!”
That afternoon, my sister and I stopped at Hallmark on the way back from lunch. Not for one…but two cards. Plus a third I’d tucked into my purse. One of those kid-style, cutout kind of heart message I’d bought a package of to wing back home to some little boys I know.
A “Thank you for your wonderful cheer” card to the nurse. She simply smiled and tucked it away in her apron, unopened.
A “Happy Valentine’s to a wonderful Father,” along with his favorite of Snoopy, to brighten a drab bedside table for Dad. He read it with care.
The old-fashioned “Just stopping by with a Valentine ‘Hi!'” cutout in it’s reminiscent of school days tiny envelope… to Daniel.
Feeling a bit intimidated but pushed by the One who called him by name and wanted to give him a tiny sign of that, I stepped across the beds to place on his table. His stern eyes met mine, flickered softness for a microsecond. A grunt, a nod. Later, a smile of wonder from his daughter who had stopped in. “Daddy, isn’t that nice?” she said loudly, behind the curtain.
“Grumble grumble,” he acknowledged. Still… for that moment, I thought just maybe I detected the slight sound of ice cracking, just round the edges.
Now, holding this handmade knit Valentine in my hand, I’m reminded… The world would have us believe this is a day just for starry eyed couples.
It is… partly.
But… how much more is it a day when God is whispering…
This one over here…. they could use an unexpected bit of lace and love. A memento of friendship… a knowing someone cares…a thank you for ordinary services.
A rose in the form of an envelope they can slit open.
A blessing in the shape of paper and heart, cookies frosted pink, a phone call out of the blue.
A you are loved reminder in a written prayer tucked inside a note and wrapped with a ribbon…
You still have two days until Valentine’s… Is there someone – even a relative stranger (maybe a clerk who is always helpful at a store?) — who might be tickled by your thoughtfulness?
I was skim-reading an interesting and genuine and humor-laced book yesterday — Giving Candy to Strangers by Stan Holden ( http://givingcandytostrangers.com/ ) – about making connections in this great big world of ours. Not just for what we might get. But what we might give. The author pointed out how small children can run onto a park playground and make instant friends with strangers round the swing set. How we’ve lost that as wary adults. But… he suggested… what might happen if you found yourself in a crowded Starbucks for example, and looking around the room you began to think of each one there as one of your family or friends you hadn’t seen in awhile? How might your thoughts of them change and soften? How might you greet them with a genuinely warm smile? What might you say? What new friends might you discover?
Who might need some Valentine ‘chocolates’ from you and I today? :) What if we really ponder that and come up with some deliveries between now and Sunday? Like my knitted gift… sometimes, words aren’t even needed.
© Pam Depoyan