Happy Valentine's Day.
I don't actually celebrate Valentine's Day, but if I did and if there wasn't a layer of ice on the road preventing me from getting to the nearest CVS, I would be eating conversation hearts and cutting out paper hearts. I'm actually pretty big into holiday celebrations. But not Valentine's Day, for whatever reason.
I think Valentine's Day is sort of like New Year's Eve--you can never make plans that are good enough to fit your expectations of a perfect holiday. And I've had a bunch of crappy boyfriends in my past, therefore, it doesn't matter if I am currently happily married. Those boyfriends sort of spoiled the holiday by being their crappy selves on February 14th. So somewhere during grad school, I dropped all pretense of celebrating the holiday. Josh and I exchange cards, but I'm anti-flower, anti-boxes of chocolates.
Let's talk about those sucky ex-boyfriends for a moment, shall we? And I promise, I can relate this to infertility. Because, my G-d, have you noticed how I can always bring it back to my uterus?
I was thinking about an ex-boyfriend last night as I drove home. I had a memory surface that I had forgotten about for years. There was a car that had pulled over to the side of the road and it had its lights shining on the snow. Other cars were slowly driving past it and it suddenly made me remember a snow storm many years ago.
I was going back to college after a break at home. I had a flight to Chicago and another that would take me to Madison. But when I landed in Chicago, I learned that the connecting flight was cancelled due to a snow storm and there wouldn't be another flight out until the next morning at the earliest. I panicked because I had never been stranded before and I didn't have the money for a hotel room.
And a stupider reason: my current boyfriend was living in Mexico and we had a standing weekly phone call scheduled for that evening. If I missed the phone call, I wouldn't be able to talk to him for a week and it wasn't possible to get a message to him saying that I wasn't going to be able to make it to a phone that night.
I admitted that it was a stupid reason.
A woman who was standing nearby told me that she and her husband were going to rent a car and drive to Madison. And I was welcome to join them. And since I really wanted to make that phone call and since I didn't want to be stuck in Chicago overnight, I went along with them even though getting in a car with strangers goes against every impulse in my extremely cautious personality. Also in the car was a fellow student from Kansas who had been in one of my introductory English classes three years earlier and a businessman who had flown out to Chicago for a meeting, discovered it was cancelled and then couldn't get a flight back out of the city. How much does that suck?
It took 6 hours for the five of us to drive what is normally around a 2 or 2 1/2 hour trip. This was due to the storm--the one that aeroplanes couldn't get through. The highways were icy and snow-covered. Other people pulled over and we passed cars giving up at rest stops or trucks pausing on the side of the highway. But we kept moving along in this little-car-that-could. We did stop at a rest stop for coffee and at the woman's suggestion, we each inserted a quarter into a prize machine and gave each other a small tangible gift to remember our stupidity that evening. I wish I still had that plastic toy--I don't even remember anymore what it was--because it would fit perfectly into the Bad Boyfriend Box (but more on that in a moment).
I got back to Madison in one piece and we all marvelled at the miracle of it. The little-car-that-could somehow got us through the snow where other trucks and cars had failed and had to pull over. It had been a rockin' adventure. And I never saw those five people again.
I got in the apartment, called out a hello to my roommate and dove for the phone. I was about a 1/2 hour late. And that is all the boyfriend focused on when we finally spoke. He wasn't impressed that I drove 6 hours and walked home with a suitcase through snow up to my knees (and that I was still standing in my wet jeans since I had called him before I could change). Or that I had placed that phone call--and in actuality, him--before everything else. It was one of the straws that broke the camel's back. Along with a host of other, similar straws.
When we broke up, I took most reminders of our relationship and threw them in the trash. But I took a few and put them in this big, blue, plastic box. I worked backwards and added a stuffed animal from an early boyfriend and set of fake dog tags from another and pictures and cards. Everything I had left over from past boyfriends was culled out from their hiding places and placed inside this box. It became known as the Bad Boyfriend Box.
Throughout grad school, I added to the box. Not everyone I dated ended up in the box--only those who were either particularly shitty or who showed a foible in my own decision-making process or who served as a turning point or a life-lesson. A memento of each went into the Bad Boyfriend Box.
That box is currently in the basement and this is why I keep it even though I will never add to it again. It wasn't for me. I thought it was for me at first--I thought I was keeping it because I needed to remind myself of bad decisions. I needed to remember my history and make better choices. But somewhere along the way, I realized that I wasn't saving all of that crap for me.
Kris at Baby Proof wrote this week about her own box (read her gorgeous post by clicking here) and I commented on my Bad Boyfriend Box over there, which is what brought about this post in the first place.
It hit me why I was keeping the box early on during grad school. I had just broken up with a boyfriend and I got on a bus and went down to New York to meet my father who was there for a business trip. And when I got off the bus, I saw my dad waiting for me and I started crying and I told him, "a boy hurt me very badly." And he comforted me by telling me his own dating stories. And somehow he found his way to my mother and I would one day find my way to my own husband.
I keep the box for the day that my daughter comes home and tells me that someone has hurt her very badly. I will take out the box and she will see all the stumbles and falls and twists and turns that brought me to her father. That I made mistakes. And I chose the wrong people. And I had my heart broken. And time went by and now I'm in a different space. I want her to remember that there will be good spaces in the future when she's in a bad place. We always seem to be aware that there is the possibility of a bad space in the future when we're currently experiencing something good (how many stirrup queens have become ill with worry during a coveted pregnancy because they spent the nine months worrying they would lose the baby?), but the opposite doesn't hold true.
She needs to remember that one day, there will be a right turn that will bring her to someone who will love her intensely. I won't be able to tell her when that will be, but it will most likely happen if that is where she wants to dedicate her energy. It's not a guarantee, but it's a strong possibility. And when she meets that person, she will create the next generation. She'll have her own daughter--either gestationally or through adoption--and she will also create her own box. And that box will show her daughter the bigger picture just as she got to see the bigger picture and the map of the journey through my box.
What I said to Kris about her Baby Box and the pain it is causing her now and why she keeps it (and perhaps even why she keeps it semi-hidden): I think you keep the box because you know that one day you will have a child. And that child will be having a crap day and will say something like "I wish I had never been born" or "I wish you had never adopted me" or any combination thereof. And you will take down the box and you will show that child how desperately DESPERATELY that child was wanted. And all the wrong turns and stumbles that brought you to that child. And that child will learn something huge that day. And that child will carry that love forward to another generation.
Because that's what I believe this Valentine's Day. That our kids--and by our kids, I mean the collective generation of children raised by stirrup queens and sperm palace jesters--will know how much they were wanted. They will know that their parents waited a long time to be brought to them and their parents went through twists and turns and stumbles and falls to find them. That it wasn't an easy choice--it was a deliberate choice. There may have been loss along the way, but their parents kept trying to find them. And that they are so loved. They are so wanted. They are unique and special and wonderful. And they will bring all of that love forward to the next generation--hopefully not with a Baby Box; hopefully it will be easy for them. But they'll know what it's like to be so wanted and they'll know how to show that to another person in the future.
Those are just my thoughts because I think there are more than two of us who have these types of boxes...