“…it is important to remember that, more than you can possibly imagine, you are unconsciously drawn to precisely that person who possesses the attributes you need to be affected by in order to change. These are the very qualities which, because of their capacity to irritate and inspire you, will encourage in you the very dimensions you lack, the qualities which, as you acquire them, will enlarge your soul. What this means, simply, is that with Divine assistance, in spite of yourself you will be drawn into a process of personal evolution. Whatever is lacking in your character will gradually be developed and, with God’s grace, you will come to see the acquisition of these attributes as an exquisite refinement of your spirit.” – Reverend Lesley Hall, at our wedding ceremony (Thanks, Lesley!)
Valentine’s Day. It’s so sugar coated, I can’t touch it without getting sticky fingers. But, what the heck – we all need some sweetness in our lives. Here’s my take…
I like gifts. Both the giving and the receiving. I enjoy the element of surprise, and I relish the contemplation that goes into choosing or making something just right. There’s beauty in the contemplation, the striving.
Taken out of the hyper-driven consumer materialism of our day (the power is ours) – I believe in gifts as wonderful ways of showing love. Due to that modern materialistic force, I prefer to keep me gifts in the edible or hand-crafted realm, but there are many ways to express, and the giving and receiving, the presentation and the thanks, are at the heart of it.
Isn’t that ritual, and that effort, the reason that we hold onto gifts? I have gifts, some of them very ordinary objects, given to me even as a small child, that I still cherish greatly. They are weighted with loving memory that will not fade until I do.
Due to this love of gifts, I long to make beautiful gifts for the people closest to me. This includes of course my Fellow Man and our children.
Paul gave me several skeins of a beautiful dark grey worsted merino wool when I first began knitting. I was terrified to use it, and unsure what to make. I finally decided I would make something for HIM. His talented sister has made him a couple of very nice hats, so that would just be repetitive. He wouldn’t wear fingerless gloves, I’ve been assured. And there wasn’t enough yarn, or skill in my hands, to dream up a sweater just yet. Before Christmas, I set my sights on a scarf. When he saw me working and asked what I was up to (I don’t think he cares as much about surprise as I do), I told him. And he said, “You know, I really don’t wear scarves.” Come to think of it, I did know that, but I thought I could make him a beautiful scarf and maybe he would wear it when he went to town. Maybe he would wear it because I made it for him. But is that really what I want for my gift to be for him? No. I was stumped. And what do you do when you really don’t know what to give a person?
And his answer?
But I don’t know how to turn thumbs! I’m irrationally intimidated by the thought of it. He’s patient. He is happy to wait for another important holiday, knowing that he has registered his request, and I heard him. Oh my.
It calls to mind my experience with our lovely daughter Lulah. Who doesn’t want to knit wonderful things for their children? Early in my knitting experience, I set out to make her a cute pixie hat. It came out well, I thought. She put it on, and promptly took it off. “I don’t like it.” The verdict was final. I was heartbroken, but recovered as quick as I could and re-gifted the hat to a friend.
(Please don’t think that my daughter is rude. She’s really a wonderful girl, and I’m proud of her. We have raised her to be honest with us about her opinions and feelings, and that training sometimes has unforeseen results.)
As luck would have it, I found another hat pattern that I was working on for a couple other family Christmas presents last year. I used the wrong needles on one and it turned out too small for my father, but just right for Lulah, AND she liked it. Whew! However, when I asked her about what she might really like me to knit for her she flips through a book and pulls up a picture of a hat with kitty ears.
Really? Kitty ears? I don’t know how to pick up stitches, OR make kitty ears! And I’ve never done seed-stitching. It makes me nervous. Oh my.
To tell the truth, if it was only up to me (which it never really is), I would probably be content to just do creative things with cylinders and rectangles for a long time.
But Folks, this is LOVE. There may be flowers, and chocolate, and sunsets and kisses, but there’s also work, and from that work there is growth, and in growth, transformation. And if all that happens from love, I believe that it begets more love.
By their honest requests, my Fellow Man and daughter are growing me in our love.
It isn’t always easy to grow. Sometimes it can be fun. I’m sure the kitty hat will be a real hoot. The mittens challenge my mind, but I have assurance from reliable sources (Thank you, Robin) that I am capable. In the story of Life, romance, courtship, and the expectancy of that first baby are magical times of growth and exploration. Those other moments – when we’re sleep deprived, our buttons are all pushed, the chemistry fails, whatever the story may be – those times may not look or feel so sparkly, but IF we are willing to expand in our love, their value in the big picture is equal, and maybe even greater, than the shining rainbow memories.
This is not to say that we can’t grow and learn outside the context of relationship. And we can grow in the process of getting OUT of relationships, too. But this is where Valentine’s Day comes in. For those of us whose romances are no longer new and shiny, it may be akin to the satisfaction of pulling weeds from a perennial flower bed. In the winter it may not look like much. Weeds can get out of hand out of season, but when it blooms… oh my. Worth the muddy knees and calloused hands, every bit. How glorious!
Here’s to the gift of love that grows. To sticky sweet fingers and dirt under our nails.