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Consider This

By LC Van Savage

Happy VD To You, Happy VD To You

Valentine’s Day, as you recall, was on Saturday this year and it was followed by a week’s vacation from school. A full week. Are kids in school really that worn out after just six weeks from their Christmas vacation? Do they need another week in which to rest up? I guess so. Poor kids.

Well anyway, it was much to our surprise, righto that the grandchildren and families all thought it would be great fun to spend that long empty week-of-rest at Bucky’s house, “Bucky’s” meaning Mongo’s and mine. Luckily #3 son Paul and family live just up the street so they don’t do sleepovers. Well, sometimes, but not this time. Do we love having them all here? We do and I’m not saying that because I know they’re reading this. No. Really. I’m not.

Yeah, we do love the visits. These kids are growing fast and one day way too soon they’ll be bored coming here. They’re already beginning to move up and out into their own lives, their own worlds, and “going to Bucky’s” is maybe beginning to lose just the tiniest bit of luster for them. These kids love Mongo a lot too, really a lot, but I seem to get top billing and that’s cool with both of us. And let’s be honest; I do not delude myself that I am adored because of my delicate beauty and gentle whimsy. I get the most cred because I am a bottomless pit of sugar, junk food and all-night videos. Mongo is far more firm with them and pushes broccoli.

So since they’d all be here on Valentine’s Day, I took a trip to that great decorating emporium, the local dollar store and loaded up on lots and lots of red stuff, dumped it all on the dining room table, Xd my fingers and told the kids to have at it. They turned the room into a gaudy, tangled tribute to that great Saint Valentine, a holy priest in Rome who didn’t have a great life, but more importantly probably to him, he didn’t have such a great death either. He was beaten with clubs and was stoned because he would not renounce his Christian faith, and as if stoning and clubbing weren’t enough, just because he simply tried to convert the Emperor, things were topped off neatly, so to speak, and he was beheaded on February 14th in the year 270, in Rome. And we celebrate this day by scarfing down chocolates out of heart shaped boxes? That just seems wrong.

And yet the story is that Valentinus (sounds Lithuanian) while in jail awaiting his beheading, kept busy by restoring the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter, and also, before that head thing, sent her a farewell note signed, “From your Valentine” which phrase we seem to have plagiarized down though the centuries. At this, his worst of times, the guy had a great sense of romance. You just have to admire him.

He is now the Patron Saint of affianced couples aka committed, bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, plague, (plague?) travelers, and young people. These saints appear to like keeping busy even after they’ve had their heads lopped off. Amazing. Shows a certain devotion to duty the likes of which are not much seen these days.

But back to my dining room. After that room was festooned with everything I hoped would celebrate that good Saint’s day and not resemble a brothel too much, we gave the gang a big sheet cake and told them to decorate it for our Valentine’s Day dinner in any way they wished. I supplied the add-ons. All the kids worked very industriously and when they stood proudly back from it, the cake looked pretty much like the dog’s breakfast two days after it’s come up. But hey, it’s the thought, right? Thus, with closed eyes we ate it with relish. OK, not with relish. That wouldn’t have gone well with that piece of culinary art. But with joy. And vanilla ice cream.

And then the long week began. Cousins who are in love with each other at noon, are frequently bloody, sworn death seeking enemies by 2 and the old wive’s tale that we should “just leave them be, they’ll work it out for themselves,” quickly becomes pure bunkum. After a few hours, six kids together in a not huge house can begin to look and sound a lot like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

We took them swimming. There are great pools around here, open to the public, and it kept them all moving and happy. Occasionally they’d play a game or two at the house, and because we’re so fortunate in having son Paul, DIL Kate and their three kids right up the street, we could pass the kids up and down the block, all of us secretly hoping they’d stay a few hours in the other location.

We took them to the movies. “Mall Cop” was playing and while I’ve read it bombed as a film, I laughed loudly and well. I did learn that I won’t be purchasing popcorn there again. Six dollars for a bag. Six dollars!! What’s in it? Diamond butter? That’s what I pay for shoes for cryin’ out loud. And I can personally attest to the fact that it’s truly an out of body experience hearing five dollar’s worth spill to the floor in the dark theater as the darlings get up for their 7th trip to the loo.

We kept busy, we did, and I eventually gave up the “hard and fast rule” about putting one project/toy/game away before taking out a new one. I just finally sat in my chair and watched stuff layer up and up. I mean, in the Great Scheme, who cares, right? All we really had to do was to be most careful as we made our way across any room, the floors covered as they were with potentially deadly obstacle courses and booby traps.

And when they all finally left and Mongo and I were alone in the rubble and I filled my lungs, exhaling hard with relief, I knew I wanted them back here and that like all grandparents everywhere, I’d miss them sorely and immediately. The house is filthy, waist deep in unidentifiable detritus, mostly broken, the rug is one gigantic wall-to-wall Rorschach, the Valentine’s Day decorations hang forlornly from the dining room walls and cabinet doors and lie on the rug beneath the table like red dead things, the VD cake from hell is piles of stale crumbs everywhere, and if asked, I’d do it all over again tomorrow. Would Mongo? Hey, after nearly fifty years, I can talk him into anything. Happy late Saint Valentine’s Day, everyone. Hope yours was also a big red romantic mess. Many, many happy returns.

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