Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Valentine

This last week, it happened. That holiday. The one and only. The day that either gives you an excuse to share love with those around you (and maybe some individual in particular) or reminds you that you are painfully still single, depending on how you take it. The day of chocolates and bouquets and yummy little conversation hearts that flash such witty and romantic comments as "Dare Ya" and "Yes Dear" and "Marry Me" (how many people have been proposed to with these hearts, I wonder?). The day of pink and red hearts and chic flicks and dinner dates. The day of love.

Valentines Day.

I remember it being really fun in elementary school. Back then, we were all required to bring a valentine for everyone in the class. We all made boxes to hold them, some creative, some not. I remember being assisted by my parents in making a cardboard mailbox one year. Other years they were just cereal or shoe boxes covered in pink paper and cut out hearts or magic marker drawings with a slot cut in the stop. We would have a party in class, in which we would decorate valentines for our parents and play games and decorate heart shaped sugar cookies, all supervised by generous adult volunteers. Then we would collect our valentines and drop one into each person's delivery box, set out in anticipation on his or her desk. Generally they were just the little paper kind from the store, Disney princess, Power Rangers, super heroes, or otherwise. Sometimes they involved candy. Almost all were individually addressed to each person in big-lettered, grade school handwriting. Nothing real romantic or personal, but a valentine all the same.

When I went into sixth grade, my first year of middle school, I didn't realize how different things would be. There was no plan for a party in home room. We didn't make cutsie delivery boxes or decorate cookies. I think I wore something pink or otherwise holiday appropriate to school the day of, but that was about it as far as I can remember. Our homeroom teacher may have given us a little something, but I don't recall. Only one fact sticks out in my mind. I did not receive a single valentine.

I was so disappointed. I hadn't received anything. Perhaps my memory is amiss--perhaps I did get something from Hannah or Leann--but I didn't have a very tight circle of friends at the time and no boy was interested enough in my little sixth-grader-pencil-line-bangs self to do anything for me. I guess I really shouldn't have been expecting much in middle school, but I didn't know that at the time. I was crushed.

That night, however, I did receive a valentine. Someone left a bottle of orange-scented lotion on the front step, rang the doorbell, and ran. I answered it, found no one there, bent to pick up the bottle--and was both shocked and enthralled to see that my name was on the tag. My mother at first thought the gift was for her, until I showed her the paper--it most certainly said "To: Rachel." It was the first bottle of lotion I had ever owned. It was also the first of many gifts I would receive on February 14th over the years, all from the same person--my one and only Valentine.

It was from my dad.

As the years passed, Valentine's Day continued to be a disappointment as far as the boys in my life were concerned. Most were uninterested in dating, let alone bringing around flowers on the so-called "singles awareness day." I still passed out cards and conversations hearts to my friends every year, figuring it was as good an excuse as any to let them know I cared about them. Every year got a card apiece from my Grandma Pullan and Grandma Molen, sometimes with a couple dollars tucked inside. I must give my mother credit where credit is due as well. Every year she came up with ways to celebrate, from heart shaped pancakes in the morning to a beautiful Valentine's dinner that night. One year in junior high she bought a rose for me from the val-o-gram fundraiser the library was doing so that I could have a flower delivered to me on Valentine's day. I think I have the best mom in the world. She understands me more than I ever gave her credit for--especially where love is concerned.

The best valentines, though, were the ones I looked forward to from my father. One year it was a long-sleeved, v-neck purple shirt that I loved at once and wore for a long time afterwards. Another year he brought home a little heart shaped box of chocolates for each of the kids--red with Peanuts characters on the front. Another year it was a simple construction paper heart with a message written on the front which I now keep treasured in my doll cabinet, always reminding me that my father is proud of me and loves me dearly. Every year there was something. Every year, after yet another less-than-stellar Valentines Day at school, I would wait eagerly for my father to come home that evening, knowing that by the end of the day I would have at least one valentine. 

In recent years I have gotten pretty skilled at celebrating Valentine's Day on my own. I make sugar cookies, I invite friends over, I give my roommates and friends valentines, I do a nice dinner, I wear pink. This year I even went to the temple on Valentine's Day because it fell on a Thursday and thus coincided with my weekly Temple Night. These college years, I have seem my father at least once a week when he has work with the Provo courts--more some semesters when he taught at the law school. Every year I could count on a valentine and a beautiful, uplifting "I love you" and "I'm so proud of you, honey," though those are not Valentine's exclusive words--he says that almost every time he sees me. This year dad was in New Zealand with my brother Daniel for Daniel's graduation trip. But even though my dad was clear on the other side of the world, I still received my valentine.

"Just thought I would send you flowers and let you know how much I love you. Love, Dad."

I love you, too, Daddy. Thank you for always being my valentine.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

There And Back Again

Hello again, friends! Yes, I am still here, still alive, still well, and still blogging. The delay was for many reasons--Christmas, homework, teaching, and so on--but the chiefest and simplest one is that I am no longer in Jerusalem and life has caught up with me again.

I am adjusting. I have moved into a new apartment with four other girls. The one who was going to be my roommate up and decided all at once to serve a mission, so she is now preparing to labor in London and I have the room to myself. The extra space is nice, but the truth is that I miss having someone else to live with. The other girls are fantastic and I have been grateful for their friendship. Right away they welcomed me into their lives and made me feel right at home. I am starting my teaching program, which has been an extremely overwhelming process. Few days go by when I don't say to myself "I don't know if I can do this..." I have also been taking Writings of Isaiah from Sister Ann Madsen (who, as it happens, taught my mother religion when she was in Jerusalem), contemporary dance, basic vocal technique, ASL 201, and harp (yes! I am finally learning to play!). My teaching course is only first block, so in a couple weeks I will start taking adolescent development and multicultural education classes in its place.

My favorite of all so far is probably harp. I've wanted to learn to play for so long--I still can hardly believe my eyes when I sit down behind one of the school harps to practice. I have played for Katie a couple times, and across the board the experience was both terrifying (which she doesn't seem to understand some how--"What? It's just me!") and very helpful. She's been doing this a long time--both playing and teaching--and I have benefited from her guidance. I have also had the opportunity this last week to sit and listen to her practicing. I didn't realize 'til then how much I had missed hearing her play.

I have seen some of my Jerusalem friends--the J-ru Crew, as we've started to call it. We've had a couple parties for different occasions. Not everyone can make it, of course--some are in Hawaii, Idaho, or are graduated--but we've had some good numbers, as many as forty or fifty at a time at the most. I've hung out with small groups as well from time to time (think balloon volleyball with a piece of waxed dental floss for a net with Andrew and McKenzi and Mary and Michael--it's a blast). It's good to know that I have so many good friends to call on whenever I want support or friendly company.

The J-ru crew has now received a sum total of seven mission calls, with more in process or on the way (including Katie). We'll have Jerusalem folks all over the world by summer's end--from Russia to Japan to Guatemala to New York to Texas and beyond. I would love to join their number, but I am not sure whether that is where Heavenly Father wants me to go right now. I always wanted to be a missionary, so I expected the choice would be plain and simple. I have been surprised at how how hard it has been. I am trying to be patient, though. As a friend of mine said, it seems that all these BYU girls feel like they need to decide whether to serve before next period. That is not the case, though--there is time. I have started some of my paperwork so that either way I will be ready.

I heard from so many people who went to Jerusalem before me that they thought about it every day thereafter. They were right. I think about it always. Any time someone even mentions Israel, Jerusalem, Arabic, Galilee, or anything within a hundred mile radius of the Center I perk up. As I told my JC peers, it's probably a good thing the Gospel Doctrine rotation is on D&C this year, otherwise we would all be completely impossible (Teacher: Alright class, we're going to talk about Jericho today... / Me: Excuse me, I've been there, and...) The news I hear about Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, and Syria is suddenly personal. Every time I read my scriptures there is something that brings back a memory from the Holy Land. The first time I went to the temple to do baptisms back in January, my first thought was that the painting of Galilee was about spot on while the one of the River Jordan looked nothing like it at all (though the image is still lovely, don't get me wrong). Every time I think of the resurrection or atonement, a small part of me goes back to the Garden Tomb or the olive trees of the Garden of Gethsemane. I think a part of my heart is always there, walking the city streets and the Mount of Olives.

"Oh, Jerusalem, if I forget thee..."