Friday, February 13, 2015

A Valentine By Any Other Name

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Holidays mean different things to different people. I remember a couple of years into our marriage, my husband demonstrating this in an entertaining, slightly obnoxious way.

Our first child was nearly a year old, and we were discussing the month's schedule. I brought up February 14th as being a special day, recalling with pleasure that this was our child's due date, though he'd been born a week earlier. The other special thing about it is, of course, that it's Valentine's Day. So imagine my surprise when he said, "Oh yeah, that's the day our lease is up on the Saturn Ion."

Um, what? (As I'm writing this, he is looking over my shoulder to remind me that he was joking. Okay, Bill, whatever.)

So romantic, right? I still give him a hard time about it all these years later. But the truth is that returning our car and deciding what to do for our family vehicle in the future took up a lot of space in his mind. Just as our baby's due date had taken up a lot of space in mine.

If you asked my mom about that date, its importance would be her mother. My grandma was born on Valentine's Day, and for every birthday that was a sweet conjunction for her entire family.

Recently I met a woman who was excited to do her daughter's vicarious work in the temple. Her daughter had led a rough life, ending in an early death, so going to the temple on her behalf was particularly soul-healing for her mother. The date for this temple work was undetermined and seemed to keep getting hindered by something or other. Finally, the date that seemed to line up was Valentine's Day. For my friend, this was especially sweet because her daughter had always loved Valentine's Day. It had been a special day in which her father always left a Valentine on her pillow, and in her future relationships, that tradition continued, a cycle of love and wholeness. To think that her daughter had, from beyond the veil, chosen this date, added healing symbolism to the occasion.

For some people, Valentine's Day is about commercialism or the bitterness of seeing happy couples. (I think we all have to deal with this feeling at least one February 14th in our lives,) For them, Valentine's Day hardly ranks as a holiday at all.

The difference between a holiday being a point of rebirth and reconnection or being about emptiness and fakery... is the person. Is the day an opportunity or a reminder? Does it mark the occasion of birth, death, or union? Well, that all depends on who you ask.

If you happen to be writing an elevator scene about a group of strangers who have never met before, or co-workers who often share this ride in silence, think about what THIS day means to them. Is it the anniversary of their first date with the wife? Or the anniversary of their brother's death? How recent were these original events? How does time impact the state of mind and therefore the motivation of your main character?

This topic is particularly fascinating to me because you cannot run from a day. Even if you are all alone in the world, you can't simply forget that it's Christmas, or Valentine's Day, or Halloween. How will your people meet the day?

Happy Writing Weekend! And Happy Valentine's Day, whatever it may mean to you!

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