Monday, February 11, 2013

A Vacuum for Valentine's


So it’s almost Valentine’s Day—

Stop right there! I know you’re rolling your eyes! Yes, those giant Cupids that hang in store windows might be creepy. And yes, your significant other may buy you a vacuum instead of diamonds. But before we, as romance writers and editors, dismiss Valentine’s as a gimmick invented by card companies and florists, consider this.

A couple of weeks ago, my aunt had my grandmother over for dinner. Before they started eating, everyone around the table was encouraged to say something that they were thankful for. My aunt said she was thankful for her family and for being able to go on a trip to the Dominican. My cousins (who are 17 and 15) said they were thankful for the new computers they had got for Christmas. And then it came to my 91-year-old grandmother.

She said she was thankful to have had a wonderful life and to be blessed with a husband she loved dearly. And even though it has been more than 20 years since he passed away, she started to cry.

It was my cousin who told us this story, and she said what struck her in that moment, for the first time in all the seventeen years of her life, was the idea that it was possible to love someone so deeply that even decades after he was gone, my grandmother still missed her husband. 

Until then, my cousin had never believed in lifelong love—in happily ever after.

It’s easy in our been-there-done-that culture to think like my cousin, to believe that nothing lasts and that everything, including people, is disposable. It’s easy to be the cynic that rolls her eyes at Cupids and heart-shaped chocolates. But we, as romance novelists and editors, are not about easy, are we?

We are about hope. Not hope for a perfect life, or even a simple one, but for the promise that through the greatest troubles, we will not be alone. Gaining that belief should be the hardest journeys our characters make—after all, isn’t trusting someone else one of the most difficult things we all attempt to do? So it’s our job as writers and editors to really make our characters work for it, to make them struggle as we struggle, to be imperfect as we are imperfect. But of course, ultimately the hero and heroine find what we all hope for—a happily ever after.

So this Valentine’s, if you are tempted to scoff at the sentiment and the hoopla, remember that a happy ending isn’t ever easy, but it’s always worth the journey…even if your husband gives you a vacuum! 

Or maybe a vacuum was actually the best Valentine’s present you ever got. What are some of your favorite Valentine’s moments?

15 comments:

  1. What a lovely story about your grandmother! It brought tears to my eyes. You see, that's why we write romance novels, for reactions just like the one your story evokes. The characters and stories may be different, but the hope of love is so very strong in each of us. My hubby and I don't make a big deal about Valentine's Day, in fact, I can't even tell you if I have a favorite gift from him. But I do know he loves me by what he says and does every day!

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  2. Adrienne! I wish I could hug your grandmother! And your niece for being smart enough to see! Ron gives me chocolate and tea for Valentine's Day every year because he knows they keep me going. While that's true, the fact that he THINKS to do that every year is what keeps me going. We met in 1966 when I was 21 and he was 33. He wanted to get married right away but I was going to move to Rome and write the great American novel. He said, "I will make myself so indispensible to you, that you won't be able to live without me." And he did it! We were married in 1968.

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  3. Adrienne: I'm so glad you shared this story with us! It's wonderful to stand back from our working lives and be reminded to readjust your perspective and be cognizant of what matters and what is possible....and what a joy to know that such love exists between couples all around us!
    And Muriel...thanks for sharing your story! I'm beginning to suspect the genesis of your Heartwarming novel for us in that little nugget you shared about wanting to go to Rome and write the great American novel!
    Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

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    1. Marsha! You are astute! Sometimes what we don't do for love serves us as well as what we do do.

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  4. Adrienne, yours is a hard post for me to respond to. I very much identify with your grandmother. Losing the other half of my heart in 2010 to brain cancer, my life since has been a series of downs and ups. Not a day goes by that I don't remind myself I was lucky to have Denny in my life for 51 years, but it wasn't nearly long enough. He was a good man, a wonderful husband and loving father and grandfather. Holidays are especially hard, because both of us celebrated each and every one. I still try to decorate and I take bouquets depicting the holiday to the cemetery. He was a huge supporter of my writing--and gosh I need to close because I'm typing this through tears.

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    1. Roz - I'm crying, too! I imagine it hurts so much because a love that strong never dies - aren't we always saying that? So, you can't touch him but he's still there supporting you and celebrating with you. I wish I was there with you to share my tea and chocolate!

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    2. Thank you for sharing your love with us, Roz. And you are absolutely right, Muriel. These are the stories that remind us what holidays like this are truly about.

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    3. Roz - you made me cry. You had 51 beautiful years together and it still can never ever be enough when your love is that deep. God bless you.

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    4. Roz, that was beautiful. I'm crying with you and sending you love even if we're miles away.

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  5. Wow, I got the shivers. What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. And, how neat that a young person had an aha moment that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

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  6. Adrienne - you wrote with such grace and beauty! I loved your story and can relate to it, My Grandmother turned down two proposals after she was widowed and wore black for the rest of her life to honor my grandfather and their marriage. Thank you for that inspiring post!

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  7. Adrienne, this was a beautiful reminder of what Valentine's Day should be. It should celebrate the hope of finding love and holding on to it no matter the obstacles. Of believing that love endures. We are given so many gifts in this life, but the greatest of them is love.

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  8. I love my husband so much and I really try not to take that for granted ever.

    My heart is so touched by the personal stories shared here, and breaks for those who have lost.

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  9. What a loving heartfelt story for you to share! I don't know you or your family, but my eyes and my heart don't know that. I am truely moved to hear of a love like that ... it is my dream to one day find my true love. You have given me inspiration to realize that it is still possible ...

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