I saw them in Grandma’s kitchen long before I remember seeing them in the aisles at Walmart – red, heart-shaped boxes. Grandma’s boxes, high up on the shelf, were the largest I’d ever seen. Decorated with silk flowers, ribbons, and lace, they caught my attention. I figured only the best chocolate (and lots of it!) would come in such beautiful boxes. An incurable sweet-tooth, I wanted to be married too if that meant Valentine’s Day would get such an outstanding promotion.
It’s been too long since I’ve been in Grandma’s kitchen, longer still since I’ve stretched to see what’s on her top shelf. Are the boxes still there? I’m not sure. But I know the love that prompted Grandpa to bring chocolate home to Grandma still runs deep. The love is still there, and I knew – even before I discovered the boxes – that it’s not going anywhere.
My grandparents were high-school sweethearts that married young. Sixty years ago, in a chapel in the woods, they made a vow. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. For richer or for poorer. Until death do us part.
They’ve had better and worse, sickness and health, lean years and prosperous ones. Together they raised two children, spoiled nine grandchildren, and now dote on five great-grandchildren. They faced disappointments with churches, stood by the beds of their ailing parents, let their children stretch their wings, prayed for their grandchildren as they walked through dark times, and loved each other through it all.
As a child visiting their home, the Valentine’s Day boxes – tenderly stored from years past – spoke to me of their love. So did the little, wooden, gray-haired couple that sat on their fireplace hearth side-by-side, year after year. I would lie near them on the floor and try to read the calligraphy framed on the living room wall, a record of matrimony, stretching back several generations. That record is their legacy and my own.
When we visited, my grandparents focused their energies on keeping us well fed and entertained, but when we pulled out of the driveway at the end of a memorable week, they stood on the deck and waved. We’d disappear down their steep lane, round a few bends in the mountain road, and then look up for one last glimpse of them still standing on the deck waving. They always stood there side-by-side.
At a recent anniversary celebration for my parents, they again stood side-by-side. Tears shone in both their eyes as Grandpa spoke. “Almost every day we look at each other and say ‘I’d be nothing without you.’” My grandma nodded her agreement. They didn’t mean this in a spiritual way; both know that God’s sufficiency surrounds them as individuals. But as they age, they see more clearly than ever the ways they complement and depend on each other. Alone, neither of them would have the same self-sufficiency or mobility. Together they are stronger.
Today I look around Walmart’s aisles glittering red as each heart-shaped box tries to outdo the last by being both cheaper and better; I can’t help contrasting them to the boxes on Grandma’s shelf. Hers may have been faded with the years, but they were cherished. They represented a marriage she valued deeply.
Since I first noticed the boxes on Grandma’s shelf, I’ve learned many things about marriage and Valentine’s Day. I’ve learned that marriage is under attack and that few couples make it to the sixtieth anniversary my grandparents will celebrate this summer. I’ve learned that romance has been cheapened and turned into a marketing strategy. Obsessed as we are with consumerism, we find that disposable relationships mesh well with our lifestyles.
True, Lasting Love
I could become cynical, but then I look at my grandparents, and I smile instead. I stand beside my husband, bolstered by this confidence. Lasting love is worth the effort, worth the times of worse, sickness, and poverty. Marriage might be under attack, but marriage was God’s idea. With Him on our team, the chocolate and flowers are only one tiny sliver in a life-long story of lasting love that is sure to include the better and better and better.
|Heather Lehman maintains that one can love both the country and the city; she is living proof. She loves hiking in the mountains, exploring cities, browsing international grocery stores, tutoring immigrants in English, and tending plants. After growing up on a produce farm and spending a few years in New York City, she’s made her home with her groom who currently lives in a university town in Indiana. She feels strongly about welcoming immigrants, living responsibly, and communicating Christ.