“More than a Romantic Evening” by Joan Leotta
When we lived in Virginia, I was often called upon to talk to the ESL classes (English as a Second Language) sponsored by our church.
My job was to tell a folk tale or other story to illustrate the meaning of the holiday in the US cultural context and then explain the Christian connection or a way of celebrating the holiday that would honor God, and recognize that it is about more than a romantic evening.
This helped our students—from all over the world and from many religious backgrounds, better understand the holiday for themselves.
In addition, it put them in a position to explain some things about the origin of the holiday to their children who were coming home from school with “new” ideas about holidays; to be knowledgeable before these little ones who might be thinking they knew more about US customs than their parents.
With St Valentine’s Day, I explained how St Valentine got started providing dowries for poor girls.
This resonated with many in the group who came from countries where arranged marriages and dowries were still very much a present tradition. I then explained about love of God, brotherly love, a general love for people, and of course, the holiday’s tie to romantic love, as a Christian would celebrate it.
I tried to give a Bible verse for each type and after the performance, answered some questions and the teachers followed up on how best to present God to them through all of this.
When thinking about the Christian side of romance, I often hark back to my first Valentine’s Day as a married woman. We went out to a favorite neighborhood restaurant. Valentine’s Day is a crowded time for eating out, but many like to do so.
Maybe it is because a restaurant meal frees your mind from every day cares. Your senses are heightened by the good food (and libations) and you are able to focus on your beloved.
Perhaps this is why many people get engaged on Valentine’s Day over a lovely meal or their loved one presents them with a wonderful, romantic gift.
On that first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, just after the waiter cleared the table, while we were waiting for dessert, my husband upped the romance game several notches.
He reached across the table to hand me a gold necklace. Definitely, a Cary Grant moment on his part that made me feel like a movie star!
We have now been married for forty Valentine’s Days. Each one has been better than the one before. No, this does not mean I have a collection of gold chains.
One Valentine’s Day, we were both sick! On another, after dropping the kids at a church party, we headed for a neighborhood restaurant and it was full—we had neglected to make reservations. We wound up having our Valentine’s dinner at Roy Rogers.
My husband still makes romantic gestures—but they are far more meaningful than giving jewelry. He empties the dishwasher. He is there when I get rejection notices and says, each time I announce one, “I never reject you.”
He shows his love in countless concrete actions (and I hope I do the same for him!). We have suffered loss and sadness together and have basked in the joy of many blessings—together.
For us, Valentine’s Day is a time to remember all of the little things and big things we love about each other.
We usually eat in now, to avoid crowds. Being Italian, a meal is a part of every holiday. We celebrate with what has become, for us, this holiday’s signature meal we cook together now that he is retired.
He makes the steak. I make the side dishes and dessert—unless we can find our fave Italian pastries (sfogliatelle).
One of the best parts of the meal is remembering and thanking God for past, memorable celebrations—the golden chain, eating our meal at Roy Rogers, and the time we were both sick and realizing that it is God’s grace that has brought us this far and it will be his Amazing Grace that will bring us home, no matter where or with what we celebrate our future Valentine’s Days.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling. Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973