Friday, February 13, 2009

Finding True Love On Valentine's Day

This is the way it seemed to always work: A few weeks before Valentine’s Day, whatever loser I was dating at the time would break up with the kid. For just the most random of reasons.

“I feel like we need to slow down and be friends.”

“You’re a great girl—I’m just not ready for you.”

“Um, it’s Tuesday.”

I’m no dummy—it was clear they didn’t want to suffer and sweat through the gift giving madness of February 14th. But then if they really knew me, they’d have figured out that I didn’t really study all the chocolate/roses/sugar-filled hearts mess anyway. I’ve always been more of an action girl—show me your love, I don’t need you to buy it and hand it to me.

I had my mom for that.

See, Bettye, in her infinite feminine wisdom, knew what kind of expectations boys with “gifts” would put on her baby girl, and she especially knew that it sucked to be on the receiving end of nothing on special occasions. And so she went out of her way to make sure that I never came up short on Valentine’s Day—would give me a gift every year to A) make me smile, and B) make it clear that I didn’t need some dumb boy to celebrate a day dedicated to celebrating love.

Love, you see, has more veins than that, and each one pumps life into the relationships we have not just with lovers, but with other human beings—mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandparents and aunties and uncles and BFFs.

And to help me understand this, my mom would give me a card and an assortment of sweet little gifts—a pack of Now & Laters (to this day, my favorite candy), a tube of lip gloss, a little Sunday purse, new ribbons for my hair. She kept up the tradition even when I was in college and into my 20s, too, taking the sting out of getting stiffed by the dumb boys I’d been dating. Chocolates, easy-to-keep-alive plants, gift certificates to Red Lobster—you name it, she got it for me. If she knew she wouldn’t see me before the holiday, she would make sure her gift would be sitting in the mailbox waiting for me. One year while I was in college, she drove over to campus to hand-deliver I Dream A World,” an incredible book featuring portraits and first-person biographies of African American women who’ve changed the world. My mom handed the book to me with very simple instructions: “Do something special, Dede—be extraordinary, so that the next time they print a book like this, you’re in it, too. I know you can do it.”

That meant more to me than any stupid box of chocolates and overpriced flowers I could have ever gotten from some man.

And now, my husband is continuing that tradition with our girls. By showing them what true love from a man looks like. By showering them with Valentine’s Day gifts (he says so that they won’t be impressed by gifts from other men). By making Valentine’s Day a special day that’s about true love—the kind that flows through those veins.

It’s a love that continues far and beyond February 14th.

Stronger than the roots of a Baobab tree.

To celebrate this year, Nick is taking his favorite girls out to their school’s Father Daughter Dance. You should see them around here, practicing for the big night, blasting Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” and giggling like crazy when he bows in front of them and puts on his formal voice and asks, “May I have this dance?” They giggle some more as they take turns falling into Daddy’s arms and twirling under his fingertips.

The joy in their eyes is the greatest gift this African American mom could ever get on Valentine’s Day—worth more than a thousand boxes of chocolate, more than a field of roses, more than the biggest diamond and the fanciest car.

My beautiful brown daughters, you see, have true love.

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  1. do something extraordinary...i love it!!! great advice from a great momma!

  2. Awwww, that is so cool what your hubby is doing with your girls. I always tell my girls expecting nothing less from a man than what your father gives you. And he gives them everything. It's good to see there are other Dads who believe in the same theory. Have a great weekend.

  3. I'm teary eyed. My Pop-Pop was so good to me as is my husband to both our children and especially our daughter. Of all the challenges I faced growing up, identifying with who I am as a Black woman has never been contingent on the outside world-I was very well-equipped from the door.

    And to Nick's philosophy-my uber feminist mom used to tell potential suitors, "don't buy her nothin' 'cause you ain't gettin nothin-I know how ya'll nasty boys are".

  4. That is sweet. I was always bummed out during Valentines Day. I was so envious of the people who got flowers at work. Now my wonderful man sends me flowers every year for Valentines and Mothers day and I never even had to ask for them. The thing is, though, now that I have a secure and happy relationship, I'm much less hung up on presents.

  5. That is so sweet. I love the book "I Dream A World" my mom gave it to me too! I am sure the dance is going to be spectacular what a great way to celebrate true love.

  6. @Momma: My mother was an extraordinary woman, indeed.

    @Angela: Your husband is the man! Those are GREAT words for any little girl to live by.

    @T. Allen: Man, um, you won't mind if I steal your mom's line? LOL!!!

    @Melissa: EXACTLY!

    @Renee: Oh yeah, it's going to be the jam for sure!

  7. I Dream A World has been sitting on my mother's coffee table for years. I so love her for always making me feel good to be brown. Your husband is giving your daughters one of the greatest gifts of all--a father's love. Kudos to him!

  8. Guess what my hubby and daughter are doing tonight? The father/daughter dance of course! She has been giddy about it for weeks. :)

    Guess who is going to be photographing 150 different little girls with their daddies? Little old me. Lord have mercy!

    P.S. Look at you go with the camera Denene. That photo of daddy with his girls is awesome!

  9. Every year, I received a box of chocolates and a teddy bear from my father. I think it sent a great message of love to me. And because I knew I would be getting something from my dad, I never looked for something from some boy. If a boy were to get me something, it was cool. But believe me no tears were shed if they didn't. O and my mother has a copy of I Dream A World and I think it's a great book full of inspiration.

  10. Haha. This made me laugh and say, "awww".

    Isn't it funny how the guys seem to disappear around this time of year. Seems to never fail. Love really is more than one day. I can just see the girls right now twirling circles around daddy... awwww. See, there I go again, lol.

  11. @theArthurClan: I can't WAIT to see those pictures! Of course, I'm taking my extra hours and hiding somewhere in the house with a smoothie and the remote... I'm relishing in the quiet. I'm sure someone will take pictures, and that the pictures will suck. I got mine before they left... LOL. The picture of my girls with Nick was actually taken by a friend of mine, Lizzie. She's the one who talked me into buy my first expensive camera.

  12. your post brought tears to my eyes...I so want that love for my daughter too...I love how your mom shored you up for the heartbreaks that dumb boys were sure to inflict...with every post D, I see how you became the incredible woman you are...a lot of good people put a lot of hard love into're are certainly loved and blessed...thanks for sharing your loving spirit with us...with me...

  13. Ugh I need to learn not to wear mascara when I read your posts. This one got me good! Thanks for making me cry I think lol. The picture alone just made my heart melt...and the beautiful words and I'm doomed.

  14. What a wonderful story. I love the fact your mom gave you a SUnday purse, Now & Later's, and lip gloss. Such a sweet and meaningful tradition. I think it's equally as wonderful that your husband is taking "his girls" out to a dance. It's so important for our daughters to spend time with their dad and build a strong relationship with him. Happy Valentine's Day Denene!

  15. I just love that "Daddy's Girls" picture! Good V-Day post!!!

  16. Beautiful ...

    My eyes are filled with tears. There is so much love in this story ... I can feel it! You are truly blessed.

  17. What a beautiful post. My mom always gave me Valentine's gifts, too. They are the ones I remember the most from my childhood. I'm visiting from Nikkicrumpet's blog.


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