A Letter to My First Love
That silly holiday that we all frantically run to and from, simultaneously denouncing it and hoping for gifts. “I don’t care about Valentine’s Day,” you muse. “It’s a stupid Hallmark holiday.”
“I just want something small,” you explain, as you jealously eye your friends’ flowers and chocolates and then vibe the bejesus out of your significant other for a week until you fight and then have make-up sex and promise you’ll be nicer to each other.
Good god, it’s here again. But this year, I won’t have the luxury of that chaotic, psychic dance; my partner will be very far away. Coincidentally, so will my mom’s. Both of our significant others are off gallivanting in different parts of the world.
For many women that would be a huge emotional landslide, but not me. My father, a professional in the film industry, was often on location (and therefore out of the house) in the later years of my childhood. This didn’t faze me because I was left with my mother, one of the strongest, most self-sufficient women ever to exist on earth.
I’ll be spending this Valentine’s Day with her. We’re going to have Chinese, see a movie, and talk about life. I can’t afford to buy her jewelry like a hubby, but man I wish I could. Most importantly, we’re going to talk about real, serious love:
The kind of love you develop watching a crazy, defiant, little curly-haired mess. You carry that kid in your body until she bursts out of you in a forty-minute labor so quick and chaotic that panicking hospital attendants don’t even have the right supplies on hand. You watch as that kid flails through schooling, getting in trouble at every turn, and you go to every parent-teacher conference willing to stick up for her. The kind of love you must have to then tell that kid, “Yes. Go ahead and sing, because that’s what you need. I’ll still love you.”
It’s also the kind of love you develop watching a woman get up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to make fresh homemade lunches for her three children because she never had that as a child. She has been to hell and back, and as a young kid you try and process the bit of it you can understand. She heads off to work and you get to go to school and talk about mommy’s career. It’s the kind of love that leads to immense fighting (because you’re the same person) and immense comfort (because you’re the same person). The kind of love you give and receive when you know that you can be yourself, however that is, and still have a home and a heart on your side.
Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love. Any love that I have now or onwards is entirely because I watched my parents love me and each other fully, honestly, and excitedly. Each time we celebrate Valentine’s Day we celebrate with our first all-encompassing, unconditional love. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health.
I love you, mom, and I’m not going anywhere. Except for Chinese with you on Saturday night. And many nights to follow.
© Michael / Marcy Billig
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