We have gone to the same church for years… 10 I think. Each spring though, it surprises me to arrive one Sunday and find that the bare trees have, seemingly overnight, bedecked themselves in tiny white blossoms. They line the drive in a long row, looking like slender ladies with frosty beehive hairdos… ostentatious, over the top, and ridiculously aware of their own loveliness. I have long admired those trees, but I think that now I am well and truly in love with them.
See my oldest boy noticed a couple of weeks ago that their skinny branches had grown little bumps, and so we brought a few home to put in a jar of water and watch closely. I felt like apologizing as I snipped. (I also felt certain in that moment that my fellow parishioners must think us very odd.)
At first neither of us believed that these hard little knots would amount to much.
And then they began, ever so slowly, to unfurl themselves.
Yesterday, we received the gift of our first white blossoms.
So you see, I thought I loved those trees before, but now I know I love them, for real, because I have witnessed, up close, the slow and earnest process of their flowering.
Isn’t so much of love that way?
I thought I loved my husband when I married him, but I love him so much more now… now that I have watched the years etch their lines into his face… now that I have fought and laughed and held on tight through babies and toddlers, glad new hopes and frightful uncertainties, good times and bad. I didn’t know what it meant to love him, not really, until I witnessed the flowering that comes with years and history and a life spent together.
I would have told you too, when I was a teenager and in my early twenties that I loved children. I taught them and babysat them, brought them special gifts and spoiled them all I could. In my journal I scrawled down favorite names for the EIGHT that I’d have of my own one day. I bought books for those future children long before I was ever even married. But really I didn’t yet know what it meant to love a child…
I didn’t know just how wonderful, nor just how hard real love would be. I didn’t know about sleepless nights and the sometimes relentlessness of being a parent every. single. day. I didn’t know what it would feel like to worry over a fevered little brow, to hold his hand in mine and wish I could take it all for him. I didn’t know how my chest would swell as I watch my young son becoming…himself. I didn’t know what it meant to love a child, not really, until I began to witness the slow unfurling… the almost imperceptible daily flowering of a dream and then a baby and then a boy becoming a man.
I’ve seen enough to know that I don’t know all there is to know about love… but I do know this: Love is a thing that blooms slowly, taking its sweet time to reveal its truest beauty.
I hope that your Valentine’s Day is full to the brim with the real thing… messy, hard, wonderful, painful, beautiful, heartbreaking, joyful, REAL love.