The 12 days of Valentine Season

It does sound odd, I am sure.  But Lent sounded odd to me at first and so did Passion Week and Advent.  I think “the 12 Days of Christmas” sounded less odd than those.  A gift a day to a loved one?  What’s so hard about that?

So we celebrate Valentine’s Season around here.  I don’t do all twelve days, but I do start twelve days out.  

I do my part by giving Bette cards that say something true that is hard to say in so many words.  “I love you” would be the words, but if you have tried that, [1] you know that sometimes the message doesn’t land as solidly as you would like.  So, like me, you try other ways.  

Bette does her part by receiving the cards with pleasure (and not, thank you, Bette, with gratitude) and by trying sincerely to hear what I am trying to tell her.

My part is no more or less important than her part.  It does, in fact, take two to tango. [2]  If she didn’t do what she does, I couldn’t do what I do.

I want to show you my favorite card for this year.  It has a very unremarkable tandem bicycle on the front face of the card.  Then it has this, tucked almost discreetly into the bottom right corner.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 9.02.59 AM.png

The inner tube is contorted by the artist to suggest a heart.  You could go off in the direction of just what is the inner tube of a relationship and how does it hold the pressure that allows the couple to go on down the road safely and efficiently?   I think that is kind of an intriguing question, but it isn’t the one that came first to my mind.  It isn’t the one that causes me to tear up as I was standing by the card rack and to choose to buy this card to give to Bette.

Here’s what moved me.  Every relationship I know of is porous.  If you want the right amount of air in the tire [3] you are going to have to keep putting air in it.  That’s what the handle and the pump and the hose are for.  And if it is a good relationship, you are both paying attention to whether the tire has enough air in it and you are both sharing the pumping task when it does not.

That’s what got to me.

But, of course, relationships—especially relationships of the heart—aren’t like bicycle tires.  Each of the partners has an ideal pressure and so does the relationship itself.  In maintaining the proper pressure in myself, I can do the checking and I can do the pumping most of the time.  But sometimes I don’t notice that the pressure is too low and Bette does notice.  At that point—I know this is ridiculously simple, but that’s why metaphors are so helpful—Bette can work the pump and restore the pressure.  And the same is true for the “pressure” in Bette’s “tires;”  I can check and I can help.

I understand that there are cyclists who adjust the tire pressure for the terrain they are going to cover, particularly if it is going to be irregular.  I don’t know anything about that.  I do know that Bette and I have occasions, like visiting each other’s families, for instance, where a little pressure might be needed.  That is especially true in situations where there might be a puncture and a patch would need to precede the pump.

So there’s a lot of variation.  But what there isn’t variation about is that the tires are going to lose air and we are going to want them to be kept at the right pressure and to do that, each of us is going to have to lend a hand with the air pump. [4]

And we do.  And this Valentine’s Season, I am especially grateful for that.

[1]  Bette doesn’t really hear words all that well.  It is actions from which meanings can be derived that really matter to her.  So I try to do things that will reliably imply the message I am trying to send.

[2]  So I hear.  I have never tried to tango either by myself or with a partner.

[3]  I have more often used the metaphor of burning high quality fuel in the engine (that drives the marriage, I guess) so it doesn’t fill up with gunk and start to malfunction.  Different metaphor; same point.

[4]  If the metaphor were to get entirely out of hand, each of us would have a tire pressure gauge and each would check from time to time on our bicycle.  I think that’s really too much for a Valentine’s Season card.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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