Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's! Galentine's!

I am not a big fan of Valentine's Day. Roses leave me cold, the hoopla is something I avoid, and I got over the cutsie cards when I was a teenager.

In my view, love is something to be celebrated every day. But this year, February 14 was very special because it truly embodied a celebration of true love.

My 14 year old, Keya joked that she was celebrating 'Galentine's' and she'd started eagerly planning mid-week. Her best friend Charlotte, whom she first met at ballet class, has been sick with mononucleosis. Since it is a debilitating and highly contagious illness, Char has been home from school much longer than she or her parents wanted. The girls hadn't seen each other since the Christmas holidays. We even had to miss seeing Char on her 14th birthday earlier in February.

Through the past six weeks, the girls have stayed in touch. Keya calls and Facetimes Char every day, making sure she is all right, commiserating with her when she is down and keeping her up-to-date on the ballet audition season. Char wrote Keya a good old fashioned letter, using it to practice her cursive!

Keya's weekends in January were packed with auditions for summer ballet programs and Char unfortunately was not well enough to attend any or even come to ballet class. But the girls held each other up, one helping the other through boring days stuck at home unable to dance, the other encouraging her friend before each audition and listening to her blow-by-blow account of it after.

Now finally Char was well enough to see Keya and they came up with a plan. Let's meet under the fig tree at the library, they decided. We'll have a Valentine's Day breakfast picnic. Char was going to make her delicious gluten-free desserts but she was too tired to bake, so Keya got up Saturday morning with an idea. Before I knew what she was up to, she had taken down peanut butter chips, dark chocolate chunks and white chocolate chips from the baking cupboard.

She melted each batch of chips and layered them in cupcake papers to make her very own peanut butter cups. Then she told me about the strict diet that Char is on. No gluten, no raw vegetables, no dairy, no red meat. So she planned her menu accordingly, telling me repeatedly what we needed to avoid.

We cooked Ottolenghi's eggs in a skillet (from his cookbook, Plenty) with a base of rainbow chard and omitting the yogurt sauce. To accompany the eggs, Keya sautéed potatoes, broccoli and portobello mushrooms in olive oil and we made chicken-apple sausages, because protein is really important! Chocolate covered strawberries were my gift to the girls.

My daughter packed up the goodies in her wicker picnic basket and wrapped her gifts. Then off we headed, Keya light of heart because she was finally going to see her BAE (for those of you not up on your teen slang, that is her "Before Anyone Else"!)

Car packed with goodies for the picnic

Char was waiting for us under the tree. Keya called out to her and she walked toward us. My daughter is very critical of my photography skills these days but she loved this picture I took of the two friends meeting at long last.

Keya & Charlotte meeting after months apart

Breakfast Time

Together Again

Sweets for her Sweet

And what did I do? you might ask. I have been sick as a dog all weekend and I wanted to give the girls their space for a few hours before I had to drive Keya to dance rehearsal. So I walked across to wait at Buster's my favorite little coffee shop which Melissa, one of my BAEs, introduced me to almost two decades ago. 

A hot cup of coffee and granola for my breakfast
Too weary to work or read, I enjoyed the sunlight and watched lovers coming in, the women wearing some shade of red or pink, families with their babies, enjoying ice cream on this hot California day, cyclists, walkers. No one was alone today and I felt content for them, having their loved ones for company.

My family moved so much when I was a child that I didn't have a 'best' friend till I was almost 18. I'm glad I could give Keya a less peripatetic life. When she complained to me years ago that she didn't have a best friend, I would say, "Your best friend is just around the corner. Once you find her, that's going to be it. You'll feel you've always had each other." 

So it has. In the last three years they have known each other, Keya and Char have been through tough times, injuries and setbacks, but their love and caring, their knowledge of each other's needs and desires is ever present and enviable. 

And I smiled as I pondered the things we do for love. How simple yet essential they are, and how they create beautiful moments that make our every day a special Valentine's Day.