"Once I was Loved" (Melody Gardot)
.....If we can surrender, then that is enough, just to remember that once, once I was loved
Once we were beautiful, once we were loved.
Well would you look at that? Somehow Valentine’s Day is still on, still a thing, even if I don’t have a Valentine. Back in school you could count on a certain number of cards; the gift of conscientious parents who wouldn’t allow their child to forget anyone in the class. And even when you got the one that was the ugly one, the one that was also in the pack your mom brought home from Gray’s Drugs and that you left for the very end, at least it was a card. Now that we’re adults we can say, “It’s a made-up holiday,” or “It’s just a way to sell cards and chocolate,” or (as my husband always did) “I don’t need some corporate card company to tell me when I’m supposed to say I love someone.”
But I kind of liked it. I kind of liked that there was a day when it was acceptable to have chocolate for breakfast. There was a day when a person like me can be sappy and love-filled without feeling self-conscious about it. There was a day all about that one-in-a-million chance to find someone you connect with. And you know me, gooey and affectionate 365 days a year (have I told you all lately that I love you? Well, I love you) and always willing to jump on a day when that kind of ridiculous behavior is legit.
I’d been listening to this Melody Gardot song (don’t know her? You should, she’s stellar) and thinking to myself, “Yes, yes that’s right. There have been times in your life when you were loved, really loved, and that makes you damn lucky even if they’re all in the past tense now.”
Now, let me be clear, I enjoy quite a lot of love now. I have a wonderful family, beloved friends, amazing colleagues, and even an extraordinary number of kind and lovely acquaintances, not to mention a new puppy who thinks I am some sort of goddess. But as we all know, on Valentine's Day we're supposed to see those kinds of love as runners up, as a sort of "Miss Congeniality" prize in the beauty contest. (Yes, yes I did win just this prize in Sixth Grade, and even then I kind of knew that I'd been robbed.)
But then another friend sent me this poem, this shot to the heart by Derek Walcott,* and somehow while it seems no less lonely it seems a bit more hopeful.
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
“Elation,” he says. You will welcome yourself with elation. That’s sounds nice, that sounds good. That sounds like how my dog acts when I return to the room 45 seconds after I’ve left it.
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
Now I am going to interpret this broadly to mean that it’s totally cool to buy myself chocolates for Valentine’s Day. And I’m not talking about those weird ones with the maraschino cherry in them; nothing but high quality chocolate for this Princess.
[to the stranger who has loved you]
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Ah, but that’s the part that gets me. That’s the part that puts me back on my heels for a moment. Love the one I ignored back when I was so focused on another. Love that sweet lovestruck girl who is all generosity and caring. Stroke her hair, and hold her hand, and tell her she’s simply lovely. Feast my eyes on her in all her crazy, hapless, wacky, Dance Party, big-hearted madness.
Yes, yes it would be nice to share Valentine’s Day with someone else (maybe even someone who would forgo the rant about the corporate take-over of love), but I don’t need that to feel that I am still beautiful and I am still loved. And, honestly, the chocolate will be better this way.
*”Love After Love.”