Valentine’s Day

~ a most exciting holiday recap ~

Well I went to sleep on Valentine’s Eve, my back and feet aching, but my heart happy. Here’s why…

I heard a woman speak once on the radio about how, once you become a Mother, the holidays lose their magic because you are now the magicmaker. Which means that you work your behonkus off to do all the glorious things your Mother did to make holidays special, but no one does much of anything for you. I remember being kind of bummed as I listened to her, because what she said made complete sense. And the years of magicmaking I had ahead looked kind of bleak all of a sudden. However…

What’s not magical about being the only one awake as you flit around the quiet kitchen making last-minute holiday preparations, more sugar cookie sprinkles sticking to your feet with every step you take? What’s not magical about being the only one who knows where the all of the little holiday gifts are stashed? What’s not magical about being the only one in your family who knows how to make Granny’s old-fashioned sugar cookies? And tell me please, what’s not magical about eating 5 (or maybe 6, who’s counting?) chocolate-covered strawberries in bed at the stroke of midnight, chocolate-covered strawberries that the children don’t even know exist?!

Yes, what that radio lady said made complete sense…but I don’t buy it. Being the magicmaker for my family rocks my socks off…literally. There are still sugar cookie sprinkles between my toes. I can feel them.

Mr. Gore stayed up with me until his testosterone could take no more. After frying up the bacon for breakfast, he asked me if there was anything more he could do…but his eyes were saying “Please holiday dictator, let me go to bed?”

But before I turned off the last light in the house and joined him in slumber, our buffet was dressed appropriately for the coming day’s festivities…in the middle was Gideon’s red mailbox filled with the handmade Valentines we made last week, flanked by vintage inspired Valentine blocks, a cakeplate of miniature strawberry cupcakes and a huge platter of my signature Valentine sugar cookies. I’ve been making them since I was in Middle School, a giant pink heart for each member of the family, every last inch covered in rainbow sprinkles. They only take about THREE DAYS to make, but my brother Jerry just can’t celebrate without them. Its the one thing I do just for him, and I’ll admit, I enjoy doing so…once a year.

Morning came too quickly, in the form of our ever early-riser, Gideon Michael Gore. I was ecstatic last week when he “slept in” until 9:30. (Not to be shown up, Miss Sunday slept until 1:00 the next day. Yes, 1:00 in the afternoon. It was bizarre, it was unusual, and I checked her breathing about 15 times…but I don’t wake up sleeping babies). Gideon had many reasons to be excited on this momentous morning. 1. Its Valentine’s Day, dummy! 2. It was the long-awaited premier day of a new pirate cartoon on Disney Channel, a cartoon they have been dangling in front of his nose for a loooooooong month. Gideon…and his Mama…thought it would never get here. Mr. Gore and I decided it was an occasion worth watching, so we joined him in the living room at 7:30 a.m. to finally meet “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” We didn’t care so much about the show as we did watching our son’s face when it came on…and it was so worth it. Children really don’t need much, you know?

We snuck away to finish the breakfast preparations, Chris doing the dishes, heating up the bacon, making strawberry milk and fetching Miss Sunday from her sleeping chambers, while I arranged the flowers and made heart-shaped buttermilk pancakes. I put the coffee on and began doing my crowning holiday ritual, filling up the children’s Valentine chair-backers with cards and gifts. Again, children really don’t need much, and the joy reflected on their little faces as they pulled those “treasures” out of their personal mailboxes made me so happy that our week’s grocery budget went toward items like pink and red stickers and cards that sing that most obnoxious songs, like “Every Girl Can Be a Princess.” (Take it from me, no she can’t). Really, I thought Miss Sunday was going to die from wonder when she opened her card and heard that “beautiful” (“realllllly dumb”) song.

We indulged in our breakfast feast, and while Mrs. Gore would love to tell you that we read poetry and the 13th chapter of First Corinthians at table, the joy of the holiday causing us all to feel especially inclined to linger hours after the last pancake disappeared, I just can’t. Because that’s another thing I’ve learned since becoming a Mother. The holidays, when celebrated with little children, are never quite what fanciful ladies like myself imagine they will be. I daydreamed about Gideon’s first Easter egg hunt for weeks, all of us in our Easter finery, the spring air invigorating as we sat on blankets on the lawn, laughing and drinking sweet tea while the children ran about searching for eggs. Cut to the real Easter egg hunt where we had all changed into our drab and comfortable clothes, the yard was muddy, and I was a sweaty mess, practically threatening Gideon with a spanking if he didn’t start huntin’ for some eggs, like right now! I’ve slowly grown accustomed to this reality, though, and so it really wasn’t a bother to me that our Valentine breakfast was like many of our breakfasts, Chris and I both scrambling to keep the kids syrup levels acceptable, getting milk refills, heating up my pancakes and coffee in the middle of the meal because they grew cold…I’ve learned to kind of enjoy the chaos, and I know, I just know, those idyllic holiday “moments” are ahead. They are, aren’t they?…aren’t they?

We got dressed in our Valentine-themed clothes, Chris is his red plaid J. Crew shirt that he has on in every Valentine and Fourth of July picture from the last two or three years, me in my only red maternity shirt, and Gideon and Rebekah in the fantastic Valentine t-shirts their Aunt Amy made for them. Something worth noting here…when my niece Abigail (the first-born baby in our new generation of blood-related people) was born, my Mom and I introduced her to every girly thing under the sun before she could even crawl. But Rebekah is the third granddaughter, and my second child, and I have been completely remiss in her schooling in the feminine arts. To prove my point, she is fast asleep right this minute in hand-me-down camouflage pajamas. Atrocious. All that to say, today was Rebekah’s first introduction to a tutu, a poofy red twirly little number that made her squeal with delight and call herself pretty at least a dozen times. I’m so glad I waited because that was a holiday “moment”!

We all landed at Grandmother’s house at 11:20, which had somehow been transformed into a Valentine WONDERLAND. Malt Shop Oldies were playing on her television, there were nine gifts on the table for her nine guests, and let me just list the menu: Chicken salad on croissants, heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with red sprinkles, beautiful fresh apples, strawberries and cherries that either had been grown in the Promised Land or injected with large quantities of steroids (the strawberries were the size of baby doll heads!), strawberry jello, strawberry heart-shaped marshmallows, Twizzlers, M&Ms, Twix, Snickers, Conversation hearts, my sugar cookies, and to drink, pink punch. As we were leaving, my dear Mother snapped her fingers and said “Oh shucks!” and went to the refrigerator to pull out a huge, beautiful strawberry cake that she had forgotten about, causing us all to literally groan. Needless to say, we were “trippin'” when we left, with enough sugar in our veins to sweeten even the meanest old lady’s bloodflow and cause her to smile.

Which led me to the realization that maybe I enjoy being my family’s magicmaker so much because my Mom continues to contribute her own magicmaking to all of us. It was such a treat to just show up at a party that was completely taken care of and have the luxury not only of watching my children experience the wonders of Valentine’s Day, but to feel some of that wonder myself. I say I am a holiday nutcase but my Mom makes me look like the Holiday Fairy’s bumbling apprentice. She so fluidly and completely makes holidays happen; its like her love for her family drips off of her fingertips, making food appear out of nowhere, and holiday sentiment and ambiance infiltrate the room. All with her hair and make-up perfectly in place without a single ruffled feather in sight. I would say that I will someday be like her…but I think people like her are born that way. THE hostess with THE mostess. We left her house, as always, exuberant and so full and contented we could barely make it home before crashing into the kind of sleep that leaves your teeth feeling crooked.

And if that’s not enough Valentine celebrating for ya, the amazing Mr. Gore made me a grilled tilapia po’ boy with homemade tartar sauce for my Valentine supper (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/grilled-tilapia-po-boys-with-homemade-tartar-sauce-recipe/index.html). It was so fresh, so delicious and I so didn’t have to make it. Which was SO great. I so thank him.

Speaking of my spectacular husband, one of my favorite moments of the day took place that afternoon when I was working on some writing as Chris read his Kindle. It felt sort of wrong for us to be immersed in singular occupations when we should have been staring into each others eyes, declaring our all-consuming love for one another. “Are you okay with me working on this right now?” I asked. “I mean, should we be holding hands or something?” From across the room, without ever looking up from his book, he replied “I think we are, mentally.” I knew then that we were past the high-expectation years, and I’ve got to say, its a great place to be.

Our night ended somewhat early, as Chris had to leave at 7:00 for his church-league basketball game. WHO, you ask, would schedule a basketball game on the most romantic holiday of the year? Let’s all say it together…one…two…three…A MAN! At the last minute the church hosting the league announced there would be some token there for your sweetie if you brought her to the game, which was whose idea? Let’s say it together…one…two…three…a woman! A woman who said “what were you thinking?!” and scrambled around trying to find some way to pacify all the wives who didn’t think that attending a basketball game was the best way to spend Valentine’s Day. But as I am a bona-fide grown-up now, and seeing how we celebrated all day long, I was cool with it, turning on the fireplace, and cozying up in my favorite leather chair with my favorite cozy blanket, a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries in my lap as I watched the latest episode of…well I can’t tell you. I’m too embarrassed to even admit to myself what I watched. But on another note entirely, can I just say that “The Bachelor” HAS to be the weirdest show in the earths’ history of television, the most unromantic, demeaning, weird, weird, weird show on the planet. But that’s not the show I watched last night…

Just like every year, it was a Valentine’s Day worth remembering, not because we did anything off-the-charts special, but because Valentine’s Day is so stinkin’ fun. I made some magic, I experienced some magic, and I ate a LOT of magic. My teeth hurt.

(And just so you know, I typed much of this post wearing a superhero eye mask at Gideon’s request while he watched “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” just one more time. Its how we roll, Valentine’s Day and everday…)

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