Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is the 28th Valentine’s Day my husband and I have celebrated together and we graced it with a nice day at home and then dinner out at a local French bistro. As usual, our gifts to one another were small tokens marking the day. I received a lovely bouquet of flowers and a beautiful pair of gold earrings, and in turn I managed to find dark blue dress socks with tiny red hearts to replace the ones that I gave him years and years ago when we were first married. After dinner we walked the dog and then separated into separate television viewing rooms for our respective Sunday night favorites: Downton Abbey for me and Walking Dead for him.
Lady Mary on Downton Abbey had a far less desirable Valentine’s Day, living through the nightmare of her new beau in his racing car being involved in a horrific accident at the track, leaving his racing partner dead in his burning motor car. The incident brought back far too many tragic memories for her, as her first husband Matthew died in his own motorcar, racing home from the hospital after the birth of their firstborn son and future heir to the grand estate of Downton Abbey. At the end of tonight’s episode, she broke off her relationship with Henry Talbot, leaving Tom Branson to counsel her that you can’t stop living just because you don’t want to get hurt. He should know, having had his heart broken and his world ruined in Season 3.
Life is hard and there are many obstacles along the way that interrupt happiness and bring much sadness to our lives: sickness of loved ones, losing a parent, difficulties at work, financial problems. Finding that one soulmate to walk with and traverse the ups and downs of this journey is critical. While I don’t live in a castle or have a household of servants, I still count myself as one of the lucky ones, someone who has been successful in that quest. My husband and I share our Catholic faith, family values, and much more. We shared household chores and parenting tasks as we raised our two daughters. We were there for each other, as we said we would, in good times and in bad. We may argue and bicker over the day-to-day annoyances of life but we are, as Annie and Daddy Warbucks sing, together forever.
Last year for Valentine’s Day I scoured the internet for ideas of something personal and homemade I could present to my husband as a token of my love. On Pinterest I found the perfect idea: a complete deck of cards, each one emblazoned with one of the 52 things I love about him. This exercise of creating this list and of typing out each of the 52 things I love about him made me realize that it is indeed the small things, the everyday little things, that really count. He was genuinely touched by this simple homemade gift and vowed to read one a day until he had made his way to the end of the deck of cards.
Truth be told, I could have filled several decks of cards with reasons I love him, and I doubt if any of them would have impressed Lady Mary Crawley very much. As much as I love this grand British soap opera/period piece, I do not envy either the upstairs or downstairs inhabitants of the real life Highclere Castle. Lord and Lady Grantham have three grandchildren and they are hardly ever seen. This is not due to budget restrictions, child labor laws, or finding talented children to play these roles. Children of this time period were raised by the nanny and the governess and spent little time with their parents. I would not trade my time with my daughters for anything in the world, not one minute of the time they were crying babies, crawling toddlers, sassy adolescents, or the wonderful young women they have become today.
With only two more episodes of Downton Abbey left to savor, I wonder how creator Julian Fellowes will leave us in the end. Will Downton Abbey survive the change of times, the fall of grand country estates full of servants? Will Lady Mary find happiness and true love again? Will the series end with her the melancholy young widow but strong heiress running the estate alone, with only her son George at her side?
As this Valentine’s Day comes to a close, I once again say a prayer of thanksgiving for a whisper in my ear a Sunday evening Mass 29 years ago, when my neighbor and good friend Susan leaned in to tell me, “I think he’s the one. You should go out with him.” He was the one. He is the one. My one and only. My valentine.