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A Little Love

A little love goes a long way.

Collectively, we have decided that February is the month for a lot of love - if the mass of pink and red displayed across shop shelves and florist windows is anything to go by. But why is it that way?

I found myself looking up why Valentine's Day is a 'thing.' For the curious amongst you, those interested in the origins of what has become another marketing opportunity, these are the key points that I discovered.

St. Valentine, a priest and physician, was a Christian martyr who was executed on February 14th in the year 270. Condemned to death for defying the Roman emperor by secretly marrying couples to spare the husbands from war, Valentine became the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers. (An eclectic collection of accolades but obviously mainly known for the first in that list.)

Although a designated feast day from the 5th century, February 14th is not linked to celebrations of love until much later. Many scholars attribute this trend to the 14th century publication of Geoffrey Chaucer's poem 'The Parliament of Fowls.' Here Chaucer writes that "Saint Valentynes day" is the day "whan every foul cometh ther o chese his make." In other words, the time when birds come to choose their mates. Later poets followed Chaucer's lead, consolidating St. Valentine's reputation as a patron of romantic love and by the 19th century, Valentine's cards emerged - pre-printed poems decorated with love birds, hearts and Cupids.

Growing up, the day was barely noticed in my house. It wasn't mentioned at school, from what I can recall, and my parents probably just quietly exchanged cards or perhaps a small bunch of flowers appeared. If Dad did give Mum flowers at any time, it would always be accompanied by his customary throwaway comment that he'd 'just found them in the road.' So there would never have been any grand declarations of love attached to the day.

It seems to me that there is a certain ostentation to proceedings now - an expectation that couples will do something extra special on the day. Proposals abound, restaurants are fully booked and florists have buckets full of single red roses awaiting delivery. I wonder how many people feel the need to be swept along with this. Personally, I exchange cards with my husband, sometimes a token gift and when the children were younger, we would give them a small chocolate and message of love. Recognising those we love is of course a worthwhile and positive endeavour. I think my question is really about the practice of singling out one specific day to do so, or feeling compelled to do so in an expensive, fancy fashion. When we stop to think about how we know we are loved, it is surely the series of small moments and gestures that tell us?

A Single Gesture

The cuppa made and quietly placed,

A hand held out to steady,

Glances exchanged, a knowing nod,

A favourite chair made ready.

The 'check-in' message, text or call,

A casual hug held longer,

Steps taken in a shared silence

to make each other stronger.

A question asked, a space to share,

Time set aside to listen,

Like fresh dew, as a morning grows,

Such little gestures glisten.

Not grand, nor bold, but meaningful

in oh, so many ways,

Kindness and warmth connecting us

to brighten up our days.

Whether it be romantic love or the love of friendship and family, gestures like those mentioned in this poem serve to reassure and comfort us. Putting this blog together got me thinking about all the times in my life that I have loved someone or something. A personal soundtrack began playing in my head as I thought of such times - songs that reminded me of significant events and moments shared with friends and family. I look back at such times with fondness, those that spring to mind when the music plays. Among my chart topping moments of love there are smiles and laughter, dances, walks in the sunshine and the comfort of home.

The Carpenters played as Mum did the housework or served up a Sunday roast. I don't know how many times their album was on in our house but I can easily picture the cover. Childhood holidays were punctuated by sounds of the seventies with evenings spent dancing and sucking stripy straws of Coca-Cola from little glass bottles.

Outside of school, dance was my main passion with five classes a week at one time. Around this time, 'Fame' hit our TV screens and I pictured myself being part of a dance school and performing on a West End stage - I mean we all have mad dreams, don't we?

Then came the teenage moments, caught up in the ideas of love discussed with friends - lace in our hair, hoops in our ears and posters of pop idols stuck on our bedroom walls. Paul Young was my favourite and one foggy night my best friend and I travelled to Wembley to scream at our first gig. There were other favourites too and many a time I would be singing along to Alison Moyet and Thompson Twins tracks in my bedroom, waiting for the next opportunity to buy the next single from the record bar in Woolworths. And of course, Woolworths is where I met my husband - both of us working in the local branch as 'Saturday kids.' Often we would be the ones selecting the records to play there.

My soundtrack is also sprinkled with sentimentalities:

  • a first dance at our wedding in 1990

  • a reminiscing of treasured moments with our children growing up

  • a karaoke night with friends, one of whom was taken far too soon

  • a 50th birthday celebration with our son fronting the band

  • a rummage through black and white photos, finding pictures of my parents dressed in the fashions of their youth

Too many tracks to list here in one blog, too many little gestures of love to encapsulate completely. Perhaps a Valentine's card is just another little gesture and that's fine too. Whatever you're planning this year - embracing or avoiding the day, it's the little kindnesses we share with each other that matter, the gestures that tell our loved ones that we care throughout the years. What song would you add to your own soundtrack? Perhaps, like me, it would bring thoughts of a little love. I hope so, for the world is all the better for that.

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