On July 25, 2009, my brother dragged me to Niagara Falls, to ride the Maid of the Mist©. Although I would have normally dropped everything to hop aboard that worthy vessel, I was running on no sleep, after a 12-hour overnight shift.
Grumbling, I slid into the passenger seat and my brother took off, heading toward the border. He glanced at the clouds overhead, grimacing at the raindrops’ peppering the windshield. “We’re going on the Maid of the Mist,” I said, as I curled up in my seat and closed my eyes. “Who cares if it’s raining?”
As we drove through the entrance to the falls parking lot and locked the car doors, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds. I felt my fatigue dissipate as I glimpsed the rising mist, heard the roar of the falls and felt the familiar awe of this natural wonder.
My brother was less than attentive, as he buried his nose in his phone, texting away, despite my pleas to get a move on. My reluctancy aside, I was ready to hop onto the Maid of the Mist and enjoy the falls, in all its splendor, and here he was, dragging his feet! Finally, he told me that he would grab our tickets, and he veered off to find the office. But I just had to see the falls, up close and personal.
I ran to the railing and, as always, felt small and insignificant, compared to this huge creation. With a sense of camaraderie, I smiled at the tourists near me, some of who were obviously visiting for the first time. As I looked around, to see who else was enjoying the view with me, I noticed a lone stranger, clad in a very warm-looking formal suit, lurking several feet away from me. A familiar wistfulness overshadowed my joy, as I thought to myself how like my boyfriend that tourist looked. The boyfriend of two years whom I hadn’t seen in three months. The one who was several hundred miles away, in South Carolina.
The stranger raised his head to look at me and my world suddenly shifted. Running to his side, I gasped out, “What are you doing here?” A video I later found that our friend was recording shows me hugging my boyfriend, over and over, as he tried to choke out what he came there to say.
The lure of the falls faded and the teeming tourists seemed to disappear, as my boyfriend knelt in front of me and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him.
This is the kind of memory that comes back to us, on dates dedicated to love and romance, like Valentine’s Day. In unsuspecting moments, like walks through the greeting card aisle at the supermarket or glimpses of Hallmark™ commercials on TV, we smile to ourselves and grow nostalgic, as we think about those memories that highlight our lives.
As I’ve said before, one of my favorite quotes was made by Don Draper, a fictional TV character.
“Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. In Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship. It’s a time machine. It goes backward and forward. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel; it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels: around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”
This coming Friday might well be heralded as a quasi-holiday, created to encourage us to unnecessarily spend our money, but despite the many anti-Valentine’s Day celebrations happening on TV and around the world, I would like to encourage all of us, single or not, to count our blessings, this Valentine’s Day, and remember all of the love that has been shown to us and the beautiful memories that have brightened our lives.
I again find myself separated from my now-husband by hundreds of miles. But we will celebrate Valentine’s Day together, sort of, thanks to FaceTime©. Love can span the miles, make smiles out of frowns, forgive the worst grudges and find the silver lining in the clouds.
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. In this world full of unhappiness and sorrow, let’s celebrate love, together.
I wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day!