When I was a kid in school, I was really into Valentine’s Day. I’d analyze each valentine my classmates sent me, searching for hidden romantic meaning (“He wrote ‘Love’ instead of ‘From’! HE LIKES ME!”). I’d be eager for Valentine’s Day every year, because this would FINALLY be the opportunity for the imaginary suitor of my dreams to show himself and make some grand gesture with roses, a boom box serenade, poetry or all three.
It never occurred to me that I’d find real love in knowing I’d be spending Valentine’s Day evening in the lobby of a hospital, sitting and waiting for my boys to visit their father, step mom and newly-born little brother. Those are my plans for this evening, and I’m surprised to find that they’re the best plans I’ve ever had.
When I was a kid in school, I thought love was something that came with a soundtrack and fanfare. Those couples professing love over Jumbotrons: they REALLY love each other, I thought. Those people who write songs for one another: THAT is love.
Those things are romantic, but they’re not love.
You know those couples that get divorced and then afterwards, once they’re not married, they’re friends? Yeah, that’s not me and my ex-husband. I left him for reasons that haven’t changed. I am not fond of him. Let’s leave it at that.
I have a husband now and the nature of our love is totally different from my relationship with my ex. My marriage now is deep, abiding and real. It is founded on mutual respect and kindnesses. For Valentine’s Day today, I let Jon sleep in while I took out the trash. I fed the baby at 5 am and then went to the other baby and took her downstairs and fed her breakfast, making homemade banana bread for everyone else as I recited ‘Madeline’ by heart about 90 times. Because Jon got home late last night, and I love him.
And then I got the call about the new baby.
I was surprised to find that I was happy. I don’t begrudge my ex-husband and his wife any happiness: I know first-hand how great new babies can be. But the people I was happiest for were at my kitchen table: my sons. And that is why I volunteered to take them to the hospital tonight, 30 miles away, to meet their new brother.
No “half-brother” language will ever come from me. This kid is their brother, just like my girls are their sisters. And that’s because we don’t love in halves: we love wholly and completely.
And when you love wholly and completely, you change poops at 5 am, and you read a stupid French book about an appendix 90 times, and you take out the trash, and you drive through rush hour to New York to sit in a hospital waiting room. These things aren’t as glamorous as flowers or sonnets, but they mean so much more.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and while I am married to the love of my life, I have no reservations–either at a restaurant or in my heart. It feels good to do the right thing for my children, and the fact is that it doesn’t matter at all whether that’s the right thing for me. And that is love.