Three Vignettes for Valentine’s Day

The First

My husband and I were recently at a friend’s house for dinner. While the two men worked on fixing a computer problem, I waited and watched Miami Ink. It’s a reality show about tattoo artists and their customers in Miami. I’d never seen the show before and was surprised at how quickly I was drawn in. The backstories about why people wanted their particular tattoos were right up a people-watcher/therapist’s alley.

Side note: I’ve always been fascinated with body art but with my needle phobia, a tattoo on my body was not going to happen.

End of discussion.

These tattoo seekers sought a way to memorialize a person or event in their lives by inking it into their bodies. One man had lost a hundred pounds and this was his reward. Another wanted a replica of a family heirloom piece of art.


But the one that got to me was a twenty-something girl who wanted a sparrow tattooed on her shoulder in memory of her grandfather who’d died. She chose a sparrow because she believed they carried the souls of the dead. She missed her grandfather and in her grief wanted something tangible, something she could touch and feel close to him.

The Second

I was recently reminded of the conversation game where someone poses the question, “If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be.” This exercise always throws me off. I struggle with the answer. Who would I want to talk with, if it could be anyone in the world? Gandhi? May Sarton? JFK?


But I realized that more than anything else, what I yearn for is another dinner, one more conversation, more precious time with people in my family who are no longer living.

People I love with all my heart.

My grandparents who’ve been gone for decades.

My father who died in the seventies, long before we were ready to say goodbye to him.

And my mother who died twenty years ago today.

What I would give for one more dinner with these beloved people. I can almost taste the roast beef and butterscotch pie.

I am like the girl with the sparrow tattoo. I want my family immortalized. They are who make up the meaning of my life.

Sure I could talk to a famous person if we were seated together at dinner. And it would no doubt be interesting.

But I’d be shy. And not that talkative, because that’s how I get. But with my family it would be a different story. It would be pure ecstasy.

The Third

My mother died on Valentine’s Day. Twenty years ago, which seems impossible that it has been that long. The year following her death, I made Valentines for the people I love, as a way to do something positive with my sadness, my grief.

Every year the holiday would roll around and I needed to honor my mother and honestly, help myself feel less sad. I kept the tradition for about fifteen years, amassing quite a collection of hand-made Valentines.

And then one year I realized that my sadness was gone and I didn’t need to make the cards. That’s how grieving works. It takes its own sweet time, but you know when its finished. So for the past few years, I light a candle on Valentine’s Day.

And I remember her.

One more dinner. One more conversation with these people I love and miss so terribly would be the most wonderful thing I could imagine.


As I sat that evening watching people get their tattoos, especially the girl with a sparrow on her shoulder, I realized that my tattoos are internal. The people I love are forever etched on my heart.


So on this day of love, I invite you to reach out to the people you love and tell them. Do it now, because the opportunity to say, “I love you” in person can go away so quickly. Before we’re ready. Then all we’re left with are memories and a little green sparrow inked onto our shoulder or love lines in our hearts.


Happy Valentine’s Day dear readers!