Usually I don’t like surprises.
Last night I was surprised, but it was a good surprise. I didn’t expect it. Hadn’t anticipated it.
It was Valentine’s Day. The national holiday of love. The Hallmark and florist’s dream day. The day of first dates. Of serious questions and wedding proposals. Of new jewelry—rings that hold a hope for the future. It is also the day of depression and stress. Of disappointment and unrealistic expectations. Of tears and loneliness. Truly it is the most contradictory of all holidays. It’s overlooked and over the top. Yes, you sense some cynicism.
I worked all day. My long day. I came home at 8:00 pm, and walked through the front door. My husband was home. He gets home before me during the week. I could smell an incredible aroma as soon as I opened the door. Only the light in the kitchen shone through the dusky house. It was quiet and warm. I breathed deeply. I love coming home.
I laid my bags down on the coffee table and went into the kitchen. I thought surely it could not be ?The scent of steak grilling came through the back door. Perhaps I was dreaming. I had been thinking about steak in the afternoon at work and how much I would love to have one, but knew it just would be too much trouble for tonight.
We had a long and interesting week. Thursday night is our “let’s just get something quick out night”, because we are both worn out from the week. We just want to sit down for a while. We don’t want to have to think or make decisions about what we want to eat or what we’re hungry for—as if we really know.
But last night was Thursday and the table was completely set. My favorite red dishes. Drinks were iced and cold. Salads assembled. Fresh dressing in the cruet. Candle burning. Kitchen cleaned. Steaks were on the grill and baked potatoes and homemade steak fries (I got to choose) were ready.
And my husband was smiling.
Oh, that beautiful warm smile of his.
I know my face must have been a sight to watch. I was so surprised. Not because my husband prepared dinner—he often does. People say it is the thought that counts, and this is true. But there are times when the thought needs to become action. There is a moment when the thought is just not enough, it needs to be fleshed out and take up space and require effort.
And he spent that thought, space and effort on me. He considered what would please me. What would make me happy. What would make me smile. What would speak to the parts of me that struggle with value and security and confidence.
He and I have come to understand that love must be fed. We must be attentive to this love we have declared and willed for each other.
This willed love is not only the being in love kind of emotion. Being in love often fades fast and can die quickly. Sadly it can be a selfish and narcissistic type of love. Being in love is a fleeting and meteoric feeling. It is affected by appearance, attraction and attention. It is interested in the flame as long as it is feeling warm. Yes, it is spontaneous and fun and sexy. But it burns quickly—kindling to a fierce heat then it dies rapidly because there is little fuel to feed its intensity.
But loving someone is different. It is a choice made daily--stirred every morning and banked every evening. Loving that is nurtured and nourished burns slow and consistent. It licks at the logs and creates ash piles which hold heat in the embers. In this loving we learn to shift, move and turn the logs. This causes sparks to fly and the flames to leap. This love is kept by effort and work, thought and labor, creativity and practicality. It is fed by seasoned wood and steady breath.
My husband knows how to tend a fire.