Thursday, February 9, 2012
My First ValentineI
My mom was never the gushy, affectionate, hugs and kisses kind of mom. She didn't know how to be. She grew up in a time and place where survival and the search for the next meal trumped any need for warm sentiments and cuddle time. She never heard the words, "I love you" from her mom as she worked by her side in the fields searching for a forgotten potato or a few dandelion stalks. But each time they ran to a bomb shelter and the bomber swooped down low with it's load, my Omi would show her love by pushing my mom and her baby brother down to the ground and throwing herself on top of them, willing and hoping to sacrifice herself if it would save her children. My Omi had six children and outlived four of them. She would have traded places with any one of them if she could have but I doubt she ever told any of them that she loved them. In this day and age of free and easy speech, it seems so strange. We speak of love for pizza, our cars, our favorite sweatshirt and of course for our children. We hear love all the time. Maybe we overhear and overuse it to the point of cheapening it's meaning. My mom said, "of course my mom loved us. She did all she could to take care of us. Anyone can say, I love you. It's very easy to say. It means nothing. Don't tell me you love me, show me."
But strangely, against this backdrop of anti-sentimentality, came Valentines day. It wasn't a huge holiday when I was a kid. Sure, we had a class valentine's box and a little party in school, but I don't remember any commercials on tv weeks in advance or car dealerships promoting special valentine's day sales. So, why my mom did it, I don't know. But each year, she would buy me some small gift, maybe a red teddy bear, or a plastic heart pin, some chocolate, etc and a card and before she went to bed, she would set it up on my dresser to find first thing in the morning. I was always so excited by the little surprises. We never had Christmas stockings, so this was the next best thing. I would run to my mom's bed and hug and kiss her and say thank you. My mom never got a valentine from my dad and I'm sure she never gave him one either. It just wasn't them. But every year I could count on her for a little reminder of her love. Even during those awful, hard teenage years, when you just know everyone has a boyfriend but you and you are very sure you are ugly and unloved, even then, especially then, my moms little love notes kept coming every February 14. And so now, every year, I send my mom a valentine, and maybe a little something to go with it, and I always address it, "to my mommy, my first Valentine" and I tell her I love her, each and every time I talk to her.
My busy little lovebug