I remember the loneliest of Valentine’s Days. I was in high school and just been dumped by a boy I adored greatly. This was one of two boyfriends my mom ever liked, so she was a bit heartbroken too.
I must have trudged through that day with a scowl on my face, watching all the couples holding hands in the halls. I’m sure I made some cynical remarks to my poet friends (what other friends were there, really?) about the absurdity of Valentine’s Day. I probably talked about how all it did was make us single, busted hearted people feel more alone and gave everyone expectations not even the prettiest of couples could live up to. At least that’s what we imagined as we saw the two most popular kids, both gorgeous, both from well-off families, both athletic, and well liked by all the staff skipping down the hall like in a slow-mo coming-of-age rom-com montage.
Cue pantomime gagging.
So the school day ended and it became early evening. No date night for me. No phone call (from a dial-tone phone with a swirly cord). No flowers delivered. No love note. No pinch on the bum. No soft kiss on the lips.
My mom suggested I take a bath.
“Baths always make me feel better,” she said half-reassuringly and half cocky. She was the bath expert. At sixty-five years old I think she’s maybe taken two showers in her life. We even switched motels once on a family road trip because they didn’t have bath tubs. Or it could have been because the beds looked like they’d been slept in by a hobo. Anyway, the woman loves baths.
Since my mom had a walk-around-the-upstairs-naked-while-getting-ready mantra, it was no big deal for her to see me soaking in the tub in all my slight baby-fat nakedness. She made sure there were bubbles. She brought three floral-scented candles, placed them at the edge of the tub, and lit them. She brought my boom-box into the bathroom and together we picked out my Harry Connick Jr. CD. She gave me a knowing look and left me by myself to wallow in my lovelorn misery.
Oh, if only Harry Connick were here to serenade me in person. If only Keanu Reeves would knock on my door and ask to use the restroom. If that heartbreaker of a boyfriend would have stayed a little longer. But alas, none were meant to be.
As the suds saturated my soft, fair skin and my heart cried a little, I realized I was OK. I was still breathing. I was with the only person who truly knew me at the time– myself. I wasn’t in a horrible relationship. I wasn’t making compromises. I was encased in warm water, safe, listening to gorgeous melodies. And although my mom and I had it out a time or a thousand during my teenage years, that night she came to my rescue. She showed me a kind of love that is not as passing as the late winter wind.
I can only hope to be that safe harbor in my son’s life one day when his heart gets broken.