Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Be Mine...For Always

One year,  I believe when Philip was about three or four, Valentine's Day approached and I was preparing to go out with Steve to dinner, babysitter arranged. Philip was curious about everything and the revelation to him of this new holiday was no exception. As he questioned me about it and heard my answers, he finally exclaimed, "Well, if this holiday is about love, why are Andrew and I being left out?" His answer hit me with the unexpected force of a sucker punch. Sometimes you can't pass up the wisdom of a child.

From that day on, Valentine's Day has been a family celebration. I've marveled year after year after year at how my growing boys have anticipated the day and been involved in the finessing of the menu, the excitement of the day, the joy in the meal, the happiness in being together. And year after year, Steve and I have added to the celebration, expanding it ever so slightly.

There was the addition of the Valentine's iPod playlist. How fun has it been to dance around the living room with my sons to Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra each year? The dessert changed from cheesecake to creme brûlée. Do you know how much the torchiere and the crystallization of the sugar, science lab come to life, fascinates my sons? The cards have gone from store bought to handmade. Do you know how much they enjoy reading them, comparing for similarities and differences, touched by words penned by me and not a Hallmark employee?

Some may call this a Hallmark holiday, but I will challenge them. If Jesus says "The greatest of these is love", how can you turn down a chance to set aside the cares and frustrations of pop culture and workaday world for one quiet night at home, where you set the table, light the candles, serve up a feast and pay homage to the one thing that makes you a family, the tie that binds you all together, the force that makes you press in during the hard times, laugh in the joy of silliness, celebrate achievements and challenge shortcomings? Yes, the greatest of these is love.

We have celebrated this family day of love in three homes in three cities, spanning over 15 years. Dining rooms have changed, but we have held fast to the Italian theme. We have strived to recreate the atmosphere of our beloved Little Rock restaurant, The Villa, where Steve and I first celebrated a Valentine's Day together back in 1986. We have spread the checkered red tablecloth, served up fresh pasta, dimmed the lights and reveled in the warm feel of a connected life, a shared home, a joyful purpose, a family love.

As Valentine's Day 2013 approached, Philip hit me again with a sucker punch - the realization that this would be his last Valentine's Day at home until after college, and possibly forever. And the knowledge that Andrew would follow him out the door one later was an added blow. Our beloved tradition, our gathering of four, our celebration of the family God crafted us to be, was coming to a temporary end, if not a permanent close. I cannot ever see ahead, but I know enough from nieces and nephews to recognize that the male chick with sprouted wings learns to fly and loves it.

Steve and I made our normal plans, as best we could, determined that our meal during his last year at home would not be a sad one, but a celebration like every other year.  I held it together really well, until Philip, coming out of the normal senior year self-absorption, realized as well that he would not be here the following year. We talked briefly about how all of our lives would be changing, and then I, able to stand it no longer, needed to redirect the topic and decided this was the perfect time for the dancing to begin.

The evening was rich, a warm and wonderful memory with all the fullness you could hope for as you look back over your life, savoring a long-held and tender tradition. I have been preparing for and denying, in equal measures, the inevitable fate of family dynamics, the emptying of the nest. There is no way to enjoy the straddling of the fence, but you can learn to enjoy the view from the taller height, the amazement in gazing over two rich, beautiful pastures, the feel of the wind on your face from being up above the fray a bit. 

As I took in our foursome finale, I tried to impart to my soon graduating sons the words of that long ago storybook, "I'll Love you Forever" by Robert Munsch..."I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as you're living, my baby you'll be...." They have heard me quote that so often, but in my heart I believe the words to them are richer now and they take in the full measure of their meaning. I pray it has all been enough - enough traditions, enough love, enough care, enough wisdom...but I know it has not been enough time. As I danced with them on this night, I whispered in my heart, "Be mine...for always."

Our Foursome Finale ~ Valentine's Day ~ February 2013

Paper: Crate Paper
Fonts: Pacifico, Arial


  1. Beautiful! A little teary here as I read of the love for your family and your sons......drink it in, they are out the door so soon. Love your layout, it is so thoughtfully done. susank12

  2. Penny, you make me cry every time I visit your blog! Your words and the pictures that come to my mind as I read them, touch me to the core. You are so blessed to have been given this gift of a happy family and thank you so much for sharing your feelings about them with us. Love your layout too...Elena

  3. Penny, this is lovely! I don't even have kids and my heart got a little tighter reading this. I love the lacy doilies on the layout. The heart one is divine.

  4. Penny, you truly have a way with words. I love reading your heartfelt story and seeing the layout you created to tell that story. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Your beautiful comments brought tears to my eyes. Being single, Valentine's has always been a non=event for me. I wish now I could have felt differently when my daughter was young. Thank you for sharing this.