pull up a chair

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Tag: valentine’s day

the trouble with valentines

hmm, well, it seems we’re in a pickle, here on the brink of the 24-hour timeout for ooey, gooey, goopy love.

i’ll reel out the dilemma:

the house–thanks to a bodyclock that manages to run on little sleep when a big hour is at hand–is all laid with the trappings of that national feast day of construction paper and glue. oh, and i do mean trappings. nearly slipped down the stairs, i just almost did, when my heel caught and slid on a red paper heart. or was it a pink one? hard to tell in the dark. i’ve got hearts scattered like puddles after a downpour in april.

up to that point in this cupid-pocked tale, there are no protests. not a one from the one particular inhabitant of said house who went to sleep with a fear in his head, and a rumble down in his belly.

nor will there be picketing when it comes to the old maple table, the one now bursting with hearts in pink and in red. the one with hearts that are shimmering. hearts that you’d better not shake for they’re losing their glittery scales like a snake on some sort of diet.

no shouts of protest when breakfast is served in red-plastic heart plates. nor when young hungry folk see that the star of the table is the fat giant cookie their papa brought home from the store, in the cover of darkness, i think, when no one was looking. although i must pause and wonder what the cashier must’ve thought, when she saw a tall man with glasses and puffy old snow coat trying to pay for a chocolate chip cookie the size of a championship frisbee, iced with the words, “kiss me hot stuff.”

hmm. no wonder we’ve got just a bit of a valentine’s problem.

the problem is this:

the little one, the one who loves everything about the day when he wakes up to the paper-heart trail, the one that leads from the edge of his bed, out his room, down the stairs, round the bend, into the kitchen, and straight up to the table where sugar comes in a few extra forms, well, that very little one is adamantly lobbying that he–along with the rest of the first-grade boys–should be excused from school this very fine thursday.

now, why, you ask? why would a boy want to skip out on a day where cupcakes are served, and brown paper bags are hung at the edge of each desk. why would a boy want to miss out on the foil-wrapped chocolates that might get dropped in that bag, along with, say, a valentine?

ahhh, the v-word. that there is the problem.

i’ll let the little one explain, as he did last night at dinner, while popping clementine moons into his mouth, delivering the occasional swift kick under the table to his big brother who could not wipe the giggle off of his lips:
“all the boys don’t want to go to school,” he began, “because they think we’ll get cooties.”

what are cooties, the little one’s mama asked, coolly, without so much as a flinch. (poor child is tied with a long-historied inquisitor for a mama. when it comes to questions, he gets ’em rat-a-tat, till there’s not a thing left to wonder. fear not, the child can take it.)

cooties, he explained, are: “things on your face.”

popping a clementine, he refined his definition: “just like dimples.”

[note to reader: we think he meant pimple, but when you are six, consonants slip-slide all over the place, wind up where they don’t belong all the time. we pay no mind to trespassing consonants. we take them in stride.]

how do you get them, we asked of the dimple/pimple/cooties?

“you know,” came the two-syllable answer, rounded out with a roll of the eyes.

“girls,” came the addendum. delivered with a swift and certain kick to the shin of the big brother, who by then was near bursting with giggles he knew to contain. apparently, he didn’t contain them nearly enough, for the little one, suddenly, out of the blue, teetered on tears.

“only if a girl kisses you,” he explained, unprompted.

and, apparently, the mere thought of a classroom of puckered-up girls pushed him over the edge. there were tears everywhere suddenly.

tears mixed with clementines. tears mixed with what appeared to be punches into the arm of his nearly-choking, trying-so-hard-not-to-laugh big brother’s baggy sweatshirt. and finally, tears buried in the chest of his mother. who, for the record, is not a girl, and was allowed to very much kiss him to try to make the tears go away.

so here we are, right here on the brink of the moment itself. any minute now, that sweet dreamer will awake, will be swept by the hearts at the edge of his bed, down the stairs, and into the insanely overdone table. he will romp with the reckless joy of cookies for breakfast, along with his pink scrambled eggs, and his strawberry floating in orange juice.

but then, the moment will come. he will freeze. mid-bite, probably. he will writhe. he will try, one more time to wriggle his way out of going to school on the day when the cooties could come.

ah, but his mama, being a meanie, she will knowingly, glowingly, send him anyway.

a boy’s got to learn, now doesn’t he, that a little love surely won’t hurt him.

and if he gets a cootie or two, well, he’ll learn about clearasil, too.

big day for six-year-old boys, this day packed with cut-paper hearts and rampant, out-of-control possibility.

to be loved, is the point, is to be at risk for all sorts of troubles. you might be drawn to places you’d not dreamed of.  you might tap into bits of your soul you’d never explored. you might find yourself falling for someone who urges you to become more than you ever knew you could.

not a bad lesson for first-grade.

not a bad lesson, at all.

and my wish for each and every one of you: that you too get into the trouble of being loved. and may this day of hearts and random, lurking cooties bring you unexpected giggles. and even a chocolate or two. or maybe just the biggest fattest juiciest strawberry you ever bit into.
did you ever worry about cooties? do you have a heart’s-day tale to tell? do you, like my friend emb, live to scatter hearts today the way i so often scatter bird seed?

coronary care

it’s pretty much the essence around here. the reason we’re in business, you might say. it’s what pull up a chair is really all about. saying i love you. in ways that otherwise fly under the radar.

leave the billboards alongside the highway to someone else, please. never mind airplanes dragging propositions through clouds. giant bouquets of long-stemmed fleurs rouge? they’re fine, but no thank you.

i’d rather do whimsy. tuck love under a napkin. spoon it into the batter. sprinkle it onto the pillow. maybe even into a tub that’s all sudsy.

i’d rather make it a game. give it some thought. tickle the brain.

i like love folded in triangles and slid into lunch bags. i like love scrambled in eggs, eggs dabbled pink for the day. i like love cut in red paper hearts, laid out in a trail from the edge of the bed, down the stairs, through the front hall, past the old stove, right up to the heart-laden table, where love leaps onto your lips when you pucker and bite into a fat, juicy berry in winter.

i’m pretty sure i’ve been a child of hearts ever since i could pick up a pencil and scribble. i like nothing so much as a big stack of construction paper, decidedly pink and red, topped off with a pair of squiggly scissors. i cut to my heart’s content. doesn’t matter if it’s february or not. i do hearts twelve months a year. but the hearts of today, they are perhaps the finest of hearts. they have a little more oomph than some of the others. a little more sparkle, you know.

i’ve been pondering this national feast day of hearts. and i’m thinking that we should start counting. count all the ways that there are to spell out i love you to those whom you love with, well, all of your heart. i’ve already started, dropped little love crumbs, just up above.

so here, counting by numbers, a dozen and two ways to spell love, to say love, to pound out a love tune from your very own heart into the heart of the ones who you love…

1.) quick, grab a scissors. cut as many red hearts as you can possibly cut.

2.) make a paper heart trail from the edge of your little one’s bed (or even the bed of your big love) to some undisclosed location, say, maybe the kitchen, where the whole day unfolds.

3.) set the kitchen table with all things red and pink.

4.) go crazy with doilies. they are the accessory of choice for this festival of frills, morning ‘til night.

5.) sprinkle tiny paper hearts—or, heck, even rose petals—all over the bathroom sink. consider more rose petals for the watery bowl of la toilette. i’m not kidding, they’ll go nuts. especially if they’re boys with good aim.

6.) now, dash back to the kitchen. put out a fat bowl of strawberries. or a bowl of fat strawberries. your choice. (by the way, have you noticed that the strawberry is, drum roll, the original red-heart-shaped fruit?)

7.) whip up some scones in little heart pans. or, easy way out, cut toast with little heart cookie cutters.

8.) scramble eggs. add a few drops of red food dye. keep scrambling. get ready to slide onto plate. (lox added to eggs makes eggs even pinker. the pinker, the better today).

9.) open a jar of the yummiest, reddest strawberry jam you can find. (there must be one jammed at the back of the fridge in case you forgot to stock up). insert spoon. try not to lick straight from the jar.

10.) leave love note under the plate (if you’re truly in luck, you’ll have found one of those cheap plastic red heart plates at the grocery store; it’ll come in quite handy today). while you’re at it, a love note tucked somewhere in the salle de bain also works. under the shaving cream. behind the shampoo. who knows, it just might work wonders.

11.) pour sparkling juice of some kind into a long, tall champagne glass. dunk a fat strawberry into the fizz.

12.) fill sugar bowl with red and pink m&ms.

13.) tuck yet another love note into the belly of a mitten. it’ll be found once your love is out in the cold.

14.) cut peanut butter & jelly into heart shape. drop into brown lunch bag, emblazoned with hearts. add requisite love note, pink m&ms, small bag of fat strawberries. silly pink napkin never hurts.

15.) spend the rest of the day figuring out how to top this for dinner and bedtime.

so there you have it. fourteen ways to say i love you, plus one for good luck.

that’s how i’m spelling love at my house today. how will you spell it at yours? it’s your turn, keep counting…

p.s. and, oh, by the way, from my heart to yours, here’s a big puckery smooch.

glue, paper, scissors

in the thick of a sunday so cold it made my fingertips burn all day, just from filling the bird feeder (without mittens, silly me).

at the end of a week so bitter and cruel it made my heart burn, just from the tumult of too many things.

in the midst of all that, my telephone rang. it was melissa. she wanted me to come on a cold afternoon to cut paper, pour glue, add glitter.

i did. and somewhere deep in construction, maybe during the part where my thumb and my pointer were hooked in the zig-zaggy scissors, my heart started to thaw. my heart started to twinkle.

we were cutting out whimsy, dabbing on love, making wonder from red and from pink. i think maybe valentine was a saint, only because it gives reason for folly deep in the depths of the winter.

now i am not one to pull out paper therapy at the drop  of a hat. but i must confess to a paper obsession. maybe it’s because i put words on them, consider them missile for my missives, the vessel that takes me and my thoughts out into the world, through the mail, from my desk to yours, far away.

maybe because papers set moods. maybe because paper is clasped in your fingers. you hold it. you behold it. it’s not incidental. not always, at least.

playing with paper takes me back to long long ago. i made whole kingdoms from paper. built houses all summer long. played out great paper dramas, this paper doll taking a walk through the forest. that one lying sick in a bed.

it is a smart thing for a grownup in an increasingly paperless world to return to paper. to pull out the scissors, the glue and the stamps.

we gathered, the mamas from the street where i live. the little girls too. we all cut and we chattered. we nibbled, we sipped. we built paper hearts in as many creations as there were souls at the table. to watch women engrossed in making love out of paper is something to soften your heart on a cold winter’s day.

then the little girls, led by an angel among them, started tracing their hands, cutting them out. laid out in a circle, they made a whole wreath of hands, hands poked through with hearts. a circle of love for the little old lady next door. the one who went off in an ambulance in the dark of new year’s night, and hasn’t been home ever since.

i sighed as i saw it. i marveled, i did, at the power of paper on a cold afternoon. cut paper, my friends, snip, snip and snip. there are wonderful curative balms that ooze from the core of the pulp.