Let’s forget about the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and the expectations of a candlelit dinner and a game of footsies under the table and a bed spread with rose petals for a little bit. Let’s talk about real love. Loving when it’s hard. Loving when you’d rather not. Loving others when you feel like they should be loving you. Love in real life.
I’m not necessarily into Valentine’s Day as a “Lover’s Holiday,” but I’m all over it being a reason to celebrate our love for others, whether they be our spouse or the old lady next door. This week’s posts are going to be shot through with love, but not by Cupid. I’d love to hear your stories of love in unexpected places throughout the week. Please share in the comments section.
I’d put her at late 50s. It’s hard to tell because she dresses young and wears a headscarf all the time. She’s very thin and her face is not terribly lined, but she wiggles when she walks and every step is a bit of a struggle for her. We’re neighborly with her, friendly even. We’ll stop and chat as she stands on her stoop or leans over her fence next to the sidewalk. But usually we’re going somewhere, so it’s just pleasantries.
Once she did chase us down into the subway station after we’d crossed paths on the street. A police officer let her through the turnstile without paying so she could give the boys some cookies she’d just picked up at McDonalds. We were on our way to the airport, and the unexpected treat was worth much more than the dollar she’d paid for them. Another time she ran inside her house as we passed by to get a couple of books she thought the boys would enjoy. They weren’t in great condition. There were pages ripped out of one, a little bit of water damage to another, but she was right: the boys do enjoy them.
Today, we met her on the corner a few blocks from home. We were coming from the post office, she was coming from the train station. We crossed the street together and she cooed over the baby, how big she’s getting, how pretty she is. She raved about my haircut. She asked the boys how they were doing, wondered if they’d seen any fire trucks lately, told me about a school she thought was nearby that maybe we should check out.
Finally, I asked her how she was doing. “Okay,” she said quietly, but she has scoliosis, which makes it hard to stay balanced. She’s fallen while waiting for the light to change before, so she stays well away from the edge of the platform at the train station. She worries she could fall any time. And she has sciatica, too. Pain all the way up the back of her legs and into her lower back. She can’t lie down flat when she sleeps, so she sleeps sitting up, or she tries, anyway. It’s not really restful for her. She fell asleep while making dinner the other night. Three times. But, she says, she’s doing okay.
I told her I hoped she could get some rest. I told her I hoped she felt better. She nodded, said she’d try, said goodbye. I’d only taken a few steps past her house when I heard her calling after me. “Hey, Mommy? I just remembered, I have some big blocks. I don’t know if you have room for them, but I thought the boys might like them.”
Of course she did. Of course she was thinking of them, of her neighbors, of everyone else. It can’t be easy to put aside her pain, to forget about the fact that she’s hardly slept in days, that she could fall down any time, and get out there in the world. But there are people out there who could use a smile and a kind word, and she has plenty to give. #loveinreallife