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True Love

The losers I dated before I met Nick always seemed to find some random excuse to break up with me in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day.

"You're perfect -- I'm just not ready for you."

"I gotta figure out some things -- we should just be friends."

"Um, it's Monday."

I mean, I get it. None of them wanted to spend a mint on heart-shaped sugary confections and overpriced roses for a girl they weren't passionate about and so it was easier to leave the kinda/sorta girlfriend than to sweat it out in the CVS aisle. *shrug*

If they would have stuck it out through February 14th, they would have gotten the same instructions that I gave Nick just last night: Please, whatever you do, don't buy me anything for Valentine's Day. I don't want a hot pink teddy from Vickie's Secret -- save the sweet talk and the fancy dinner and the manufactured, overrated Valentine's Day sex for a night when I'm actually in the mood. I'm more of an action girl; show me your love year round. I don't need you to buy it and stick it in red cellophane.

I had my mom for that.

See, Bettye, in her infinite feminine wisdom, knew what kind of expectations boys with "gifts" would put on her baby girl, and she especially knew that it sucked to be on the receiving end of nothing on special occasions. And so she went out of her way to make sure that I never came up short on Valentine's Day -- would give me a gift every year to A) make me smile, and B) make it clear that I didn't need some dumb boy to celebrate a day dedicated to celebrating love.

Love, you see, has more veins than that, and each one pumps life into the relationships we have not just with lovers, but with the most important human beings in our lives -- mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandparents and aunties and uncles and BFFs.

To make that plain, my mom would hook me up on Feb. 15th with an assortment of sweet little gifts -- a tube of lip gloss, a cute stuffed animal, a pack of Now & Laters, new ribbons for my hair. Even when I grew up and went off to college and well into my 20s, she'd send chocolates, easy-to-keep-alive plants, restaurant gift certificates -- gifts that took the sting out of getting stiffed by the dumb boys I'd been dating. One year she drove over to campus to hand-deliver "I Dream A World," an incredible book featuring portraits and first-person biographies of African American women who've changed the world. My mom handed the book to me with very simple instructions: "Do something special, Dede -- be extraordinary, so that the next time they print a book like this, you're in it, too. I know you can do it."

That meant more to me than any stupid box of chocolates and overpriced flowers I could have ever gotten from some man.

So when Valentine's Day comes around, I tell Nick to skip buying presents for me -- to shower them on the girls. So they won't be impressed by gifts from other men. And, more importantly, so that they know that Valentine's Day is a special day to celebrate true love.

The kind that flows through the veins. And continues far and beyond February 14th.

This year, Nick picked out a few super special things for his girls -- a cute purse for Mari, the purse nut, and a cute, pink tiger Webkinz for Lila, the stuffed animal nut, and dresses and headbands for each of them (yes, he picked them out himself!), for their school's Father Daughter Dance. I just know they're going to be all giggles and wiggles when they put on those fancy dresses and get to prancing all around the house, practicing for the big night and falling out when their daddy bows in front of them and puts on his forma voice and asks, "May I have this dance?"

Nick is excited too. He's hoping for a repeat of last year's dance; it was then, while he danced with our Mari, that she lay her head on his chest and closed her eyes and smiled.

She was twirling on a little slice of Heaven that night.

Nick was, too.

And that is the greatest gift this mom could ever get on Valentine's Day -- worth more than a thousand boxes of chocolate, more than a field of roses, more than the biggest diamond and the fanciest car.

My beautiful daughters, you see, have true love.



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