Mindnight having passed, this should really be called "the day after the day after Valentine's", but then I suppose that depends on where you are when you're reading it.
Maxima and I try to refrain from going overboard with cards and gifts now that the girls are a little older. We celebrate Christmas religiously, but otherwise don't bother too much with cards etc. Except when we do. That's the problem with an unofficial arrangement.
So I was nonplussed when Maxima handed me an envelope that morning, with a very nice card touched my heart. She left the room to do something - at which Minora came in, slipped an envelope into my hand and whispered in my ear - in a manner a Sergeant Major would be proud of - "fill it in!" I know when I'm licked.
I can't lay my hand on the card right now, but I remember the verse being a little treacly. Was this the only card she could find, or is that how she sees love between a couple who have nearly been married 20 years? Or is that how our love would seem to me if my tired old hull weren't so barnacled?
I remember a party my Uncle and Aunt had for their 25th wedding anniversary - he said he loved her, and went bright red. It was the first time, I believe, their children had heard it said 'twixt one and the other. It was almost like a line I once read in a classic detective story set in Sicily by Leonardo Sciascia called Il Giorno della Civetta (later made into an Italian-language film with Claudia Cardinale) where the detective asks a newly-widowed woman "Did you love him?" and she answers "Of course - we were married". I don't want the girls, in the future when we're gone, to assume that we must have loved each other because we were married, because unfortunately, even these days, it ain't necessarily so. I'm glad that they can hear us say it as well as see us show it, like the two sides of a coin.
After attending a service of Holy Communion at St Gallicus we came home and dinner was put on. I hadn't been aware of my mood being slightly elevated towards the end of the week, but I felt a leaden weight drag my mind down while mashing the potatoes. Maxima saw me slow down and start to slouch, and placed me at the table while she finished the tatties. Yet again, with my family around me, I experienced love as the safety-net under the trapeze.
Thankfully we were able to attend St Gallicus for a Valentine's Day Celebration of Marriage, one of hundreds that were happening up and down the country. There were three hymns from the top ten wedding hymns during the service - Amazing Grace, Make me a Channel of your Peace and Praise my Soul the King of Heaven. Between the second and third the married couples faced each other and renewed our wedding vows, saying "I took you..." and "with this ring I wed you...", etc. With a peal of bells beforehand and a slice of cake and glass of champagne or orange juice afterwards, it was good to touch home with where we'd started out all those years ago - scrape off the barnacles, as it were.
I didn't feel well enough to the discussion on theology Rector Pellegrina was hosting that evening, but it was a lovely day and - one of the major points, I think - Minora and even Minima (now a teenager) had went a little misty eyed at the flowers, bells, etc. The service was thoroughly grounded in the continuing theological thread concerning marriage running through the Old and New Testaments (hardly surprising, since the Christian Bible starts with one marriage and ends with another). I found this all the more comforting for not feeling too great; something Richard Dawkins would sneer at, but I think Bishop David Thomson, in his Valentine's Day Sermon on the Four Loves, explained it consummately: "Religion is easily accused of being a crutch, but I have no problem myself with an A and E department if I’ve been in an accident, and life is full of accidents." Amen to that.
I never had time to write all this down on Valentine's Day as I had to be up early for work - which compliments medication excellently in putting mental illness in its place - but I hope your Valentine's day was good or, if it wasn't, that it wasn't too bad. Touch home more than once a year.
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