Last Friday, my husband and I were having lunch at Cafe Minh a great Asian restaurant in Mid-City. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Not because of the food (which, this being New Orleans and all, was, of course, wonderful). Not because of the conversation (it was a typical lunch between a typical couple).
It was because of a 60-something couple who sat across from us. He enjoying his martini; she her Cosmo. They were completely forgettable in their appearance. Attractive, but not distinctive. He wore the same blue shirt and grey trousers that almost every dad/new grandfather wears. She had on the same long gold necklace and plum colored mock turtleneck that virtually every woman past menopause acquires.
I’ll never know their names. But I’ll always know who they were: former lovers. It was obvious in the way they spoke in that soft, warm tone that reveals a lasting intimacy. An intimacy that is easier to share when the day-to-day pressure of maintaining a relationship is gone. In the way they gently touched, never held, each other’s hands. Smiling at the memory of shared times with heads bent slightly to help bring the past into clearer focus.
The reunion was easier on him than her. “They were good times,” he said brightly. “Yes,” she replied quietly head bowed, retreating her hands to the stem of her glass. As he raised his glass to toast what was, she, for a moment, allowed herself to be transported back there. To what was.
There was silence and, then, a mutual lady friend joined them. The man brightened, the woman slumped. The trip down memory lane was over. They were back in the present. Forever away from the possibility of making what was….real…again.
For the next few days, I saw former lovers everywhere. Running into each other at the grocery store. Embracing at a second line. I thought of my former lovers. Of how the two most memorable dinners I had as we were leaving Boston was with two of them, Steve and Bob, whose love I’ll always cherish. And return.
And it got me to thinking. About the meaning of Valentine’s Day. Or, rather, A meaning.
While this certainly is a day for loving the one you love–and, indeed, ALL those you love!— maybe it also should include just a moment’s pause to remember those you HAVE loved.
Because, despite society’s insistence that we compartmentalize our lives into what was, what is, and what will be. Despite the legion of self-help books and talk shows that tell you how to move on. Despite the days, the weeks, the years that steadily push back the daily, weekly, yearly memories, the truth is that love, like life, is nothing but a continuum. There is no break. There may be new chapters, but it’s the same book.
And old loves will always be part of that book, not only occupying old chapters, but–in some way–informing ones you still are writing.
So, raise a glass to today’s love on this Valentine’s Day. But, then, look up and in..to your heart…and take a sip of gratitude and memory to yesterday’s Valentines, knowing that a tiny piece of them will always be there. In your heart.