Monday Morning Musings:
My daughters and I threw a surprise 60th birthday party for my husband this past weekend, just before Valentine’s Day. He thought he was going to a party for one of our daughters. Today is the official celebration of Washington’s birthday (now always on a Monday). It is sometimes called “Presidents’ Day” and combined with Lincoln’s birthday. The line “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” comes from E.E. Cummings.
On February 22nd,
When I was young,
We colored and cut,
We painted and pasted
Images of George Washington
Our first president.
A true commander-in-chief
Tested in battle.
The American Cincinnatus,
The first US President,
Fighting for freedom.
He carried the hopes of a nation
In his heart.
Our February schooldays,
Included holiday units,
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,
Whose birthday we celebrated on the twelfth of February.
And so we carried home to our parents
Our construction paper masterpieces,
Revolutionary era silhouettes,
And tales of truthful George and Honest Abe,
Two leaders in war time–
One war to create a new nation
The other to keep it from dissolving.
Revolution and Civil War,
Battle lines crossed, battlefields bloodied.
And as for politics. Do you think it uncivil now?
Look again at the past.
Early campaigns filled with slander, lies, and duels.
Representative Preston Brooks
Beat Senator Charles Sumner with a cane
In a senate chamber in 1856.
I can imagine it today–
Perhaps battery by selfie stick
After a series of vitriolic tweets.
Any subject is possible.
But then it was a bill, new territories,
Popular Sovereignty, Bleeding Kansas,
And Civil War.
Owning other humans.
And yet, we forget
Events long gone, now
Backlit, perhaps a bit of uplighting,
To infuse a rosy glow
And make the past seem romantic?
O Captain! my Captain!
Crimes of the past we carry, along with our celebrations.
We also celebrated Valentine’s Day in school,
A holiday that combines ancient Roman fertility rites
And Christian saints.
There’s a combination.
Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote one of the first Valentines
In 1415 to his wife.
He had been captured at the Battle of Agincourt
And wrote poetry while imprisoned in the Tower of London.
He was held captive for twenty-four years,
Plenty of time to reflect and write, though I think it
Just a teeny bit drastic for a writer’s retreat, don’t you?
But no such poetry for our school day parties.
We had pre-printed Valentines–
Roses are red, and violets are blue–
To place in the paper bags decorated with hearts,
A Valentine for each classmate.
We had cupcakes and juice,
Sweet crumbs clinging to our fingers
Like dreams in our hearts
We carried both throughout the day.
Our first date, was a school Christmas dance.
Just before my birthday,
A cold December night,
But we were warm with teenage hopes and expectation,
The giddiness of youth.
My mom told my aunt, you “seemed like a nice boy.”
I don’t know what your parents said.
We’ve celebrated many birthdays, and Valentine’s, too,
Since that long ago night.
I’ve carried your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).
This year you were surprised
Both by the passage of years–
Are we both nearly 60?–
And by the party.
I worried about the last minute snow
That people would not show,
That things would not go as planned.
But all went went.
And touched, I think,
By the love that people carry for you
In their hearts.
Our daughters, also with February births,
Like you and our Presidents. Our
Family celebrations carried through the month.
We had Valentine’s birthday parties for them
When they were young.
Little girls making heart-shaped cards,
Pink and red, glitter and glue,
Gifts for us and for each other.
Chocolate cakes, sundaes with mountains of toppings,
And sleepovers in the living room.
Later they had their own Valentines,
High school dances, and college romances.
And now our babies are grown
They’ve found love
Beyond parents, friends, and pets
Though those remain, of course,
Because love grows when it is nurtured
It is infinite and endless.
It cannot be contained, though it is carried.
There can never be too much love
To carry in my heart
With your heart.