Saturday, February 12, 2011

Auntie Valentine*

Tomorrow, I celebrate Valentine’s Day with two friends. That’s right – three of us.

Three isn’t traditionally considered the best number for this particular festival,
but in this case it’s just right.

We three single women are celebrating the friendship God’s given us.
As our host-friend said in an email, “It’ll be a low-key affair, but filled with all the love we have.” I’m grateful to tell you – that’s a lot of love.

I have the joy of being loved by many friends!

The other single women I know are as I am -- surrounded by loving friends, much-adored nieces and nephews, parents and other family members.
Our lives are rich, full-to-overflowing.

Most of us are a lot freer than married people.
No one expects supper when we’re not hungry,
no one wakes us with his snoring,
no one waits for us to come home.
We come and go,
eat and sleep,
talk... or don’t talk.
As we please.

We also have freedom to give back in ways married people don’t.
Married folks’ energy is primarily focused on those at home, as is right.
Most single people can give more broadly.

For us and the world around us... Tis a gift to be single!

But for all of its wonderfulness,
singleness is a gift none of us wants.

I promise you:
none of my dozen-or-so single friends prayed she’d be unmarried
in her 30’s,
or 50’s.

Being a single woman is like giving God a one-item wish list every Christmas.
Marriage, it says.
That’s all.

And we hope-upon-hope He’ll decide,
this year,
to put that oh-so-elusive gift under the tree for us.

But, every year,
the same awkwardly-wrapped, knobbly-shaped gift is placed into our hands.
Yet again,
we unwrap the unwanted gift of singleness,
biting back tears,
trying to hide our disappointment.

Then, throughout the year,
we're required to carry that awkward and weighty gift.
We shift it from arm to arm,
shoulder to shoulder,
wishing we could put it down somewhere.

But to have and to hold, for better, for worse....
the gift is ours.

Everyone we meet can see that we were chosen to receive the gift we didn’t want.
Virtual strangers wonder aloud why we have it.
Friends and family hint at strategies to get rid of it.
Certain groups even exclude us because we’re carrying it.

As the year progresses, we see more and more of the ways it’s a gift,
but it’s still lumpy and awkward, heavy and unusual.
We still don’t want it.

So, when Christmas rolls around again,
put that other gift on our list just one more time.
Please, God?
Maybe this year?

We wait for that day and peek under the tree in vain...
and, when the big day comes,
we’re handed the all-too-familiar knobbly-shaped package once again.

As we wearily unwrap it,
we see our unasked-for gift has come with redesigned accessories...
a brand new set of sorrows and delights
that weren't attached to it last year.

We’d give away the delights so that we could get rid of those sorrows,
but it is not for us to choose.

Reluctantly, we pick up our beautiful and ungainly gift
and begin to carry it for yet another year.

-- Reenie
*Thanks to my friend I.S. for today’s title.

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