Sunday, February 12, 2012

I ♥ Valentine's Day

A while back, my daughter asked me, “Ma, what’s your favorite day to celebrate of all our celebration days?"

Without a moment’s hesitation, I answered, “Valentine’s Day, hands down,” or maybe I should have said hands up for that matter, or hands clapping excitedly with joy. I simply love the color red, the shape of hearts, chocolate in all its forms, and acknowledging love. Most people favor their birthday as their best celebration day; I tend to become embarrassed with any acute attention on my birthday. Christmas/Chanukah can be wonderful celebrations, if one doesn’t let the “present situation” or the Norman Rockwell illustrations of the perfect family gathering intimidate. July 4th is a sky-rocking summer fest at its best, but I have been known to fall asleep before the fireworks commence (in my latitude, it is 10 PM). I adore the spooky costumes, pumpkin carving, and autumnal glow of Halloween, but the heart day wins my first place vote.

Love and loving behavior, however, are not easy subjects to define. There are several love languages and interpretations of love, depending on your life experience. For me, cooking for people is one of my love languages. Also, there are numerous ways to think about love: romantic love, friendship love, family love, parental love,  acquaintance love, sexual love; love of God and religion, love for a coach, teacher, leader or mentor, love for art, animals, sports, nature, books, movies, food, drink, travel, career, and the list is endless. I really think it takes a lifetime to learn how to love well. Thirty years ago if you asked me to define love, I would have blathered on about sensual feelings quickly followed up by the endorphin-related proof that passionate love is the “real” thing. I learned the hard way that that is more a form of addiction. When one loses one’s fix or endorphin-maker (via a break-up), the mind-altering opiates come crashing down, causing severe withdrawals. One cannot, even after embarrassing begging, convince people to keep loving us when they want to flee. We are powerless over others. Dagnabbit.  My viewpoint and stance on what love is has changed a bit over the years with maturity.

I get that there has to be bona fide acceptance of the different and annoying aspects of the people we love in our lives - unconditional love. We have to embrace a spirit akin to “free to be you and me” and "live and let live." Martha Beck shared an essay in Oprah Magazine titled “How to Love More by Caring Less” – she realized through her practice there is a way to love people but not be attached to outcomes (this by the way comes in handy when raising teenagers). Furthermore, love has to feel lovely and warm and comfortable like your favorite blanket. Bumble is my blanket and my best friend.

Remember the movie "Love Story" - well the famous quote I disagree with, here is mine.

My mom, used to say, “If you want to know if a person loves you, check where their shoes are parked.”  If someone is in your life day in and day out, chances are they are comfortable with you, like being with you and most probably love you. Of course, I have a girlfriend who assured me that her musician boyfriend, who parked his shoes under her bed for a few years, didn’t love her as much as the roof she provided over his head with her paycheck. But one has to give a things a chance. Another favorite cliche my mom would oft repeat was, “Actions speak louder than words.” Beware the person who constantly says, “I love you, baby” but really is never there for you when you need them. How to find examples of love to honor Valentine's day?

Normally I would sit here constructing a lists of the top 10 best love quotes or love lines in a movie, song, or play; instead, I have decided to share with you five scenarios of memorable acts of love found in movies that are heart-thumping. It is not in the words of love spoken as much as in the actions of love expressed. In each of the scenes, a tender restraint is displayed, an expression of love that is worth noting.

Five memorable acts of love in a movie (in alphabetical order)

1. An Affair to Remember (1957). Scenario: Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) misses her important date at the Empire State Building with the man she loves, Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant), for a “very good reason.” Many months later she sees him at the ballet - both of them attending with other people. Terry does not want Nickie to know what happened to her the night she left him standing in the rain for hours, and she uses a quiet restraint to protect him from finding out her fate.  She cannot move from her seat, cannot offer any explanation, and the only exchange between them is a sorrowful, “Hello.”

2.  Bridges of Madison County (1995). Scenario: Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) has fallen passionately in love with a photographer, Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood), who came to her town to photograph the covered bridges that connect parts of her county. The story tells of those moments when two people connect deeply but are faced with a huge moral dilemma. She must make a choice: her new-found passion or her family life as it was before (consumed with details). Wearing a red dress with her suitcases packed to leave with her lover, Francesca battles internally and externally with this heart-wrenching decision. Her deep love of family wins and she stays loving her family for the remainder of her life. But in her will, she makes a final request to her children to allow her to honor her long-lost love in a special way.

3. Brief Encounter (1945). Scenario: Laura Jensen (Celia Johnson) and Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) are both married but not to one another. When something gets into Laura’s eye on the platform of the train station, Dr. Harvey comes to her aid and helps her. A friendship develops between them and grows into a love that neither one expected. As the perfect British gentleman, Dr. Harvey gallantly takes a job out of the country to put an end their increasing desire for one another.  They have one last moment at the station to bid a sad farewell which is interrupted by a most obnoxious neighbor. It is a heart-wrenching scene – they will never see one another again and cannot give voice to their heartbreak. The scene that trumps this for exhibiting enormous love is when Laura returns home deeply grieving but resolved.  Laura’s husband, Fred Jensen (Cyril Raymond), senses something – perhaps the strings that were pulling at her heart are disappearing and he kneels close to her and says, “You’ve been a long way away. Thank you for coming back to me.” It is a moment of unconditional marital love and understanding.

4. Casablanca (1942). Scenario: Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a saloon owner in Casablanca, Morocco, during WWII uses all his will and cunning to protect the woman he loves deeply, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), from harm by forcing her to get on a plane with her then-husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and leave Rick forever. It was - no matter how he tried to spin it - the right thing to do. Rick understood that the problems of the crazy world during WWII were far greater than the problems of three little people.

5. Sense and Sensibility (1995). Scenario: Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson), wise and elegant eldest sister, falls gently in love with Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), with whom she shares a deep friendship. As the propriety of the times dictate, Edward is promised to someone else and a good man must honor such promises.  Elinor, exhibiting enormous love, wishes him happiness and bestows her blessings on him and his fiancé. Elinor is a lady. She knows she must remain silent about her feelings rather than cause him any pain or confusion. Inside a part of her is dying yet she must go on with her love safely locked in her heart. There is, thankfully, a good ending to her grief.

There are hundreds more scenes in many more movies depicting love. What are some scenes in movies which exemplified real love to you?

The New Seekers. "Free To Be...You and Me" By Stephen J. Lawrence (music) and Bruce Hart (lyrics),  1972, orig. Bell Records.  CD, VHS.
McCarey, Leo, dir. An Affair to Remember. Perf. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 1957. Film.
Eastwood, Clint, dir. The Bridges of Madison County. Perf. Clint Eastwood, and Meryl Streep. Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1995. Film.
Lean, David, dir. Brief Encounter. Perf. Trevor Howard, and Celia Johnson. n/a, 1945. Film.
Curtiz, Michael, dir. Casablanca. Perf. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1942. Film.
Lee, Ang, dir. Sense and Sensibility. Perf. Hugh Grant, and Emma Thompson. Sony Pictures Releasing, 1995. Film.
[All movie photos courtesy of Google Images]


  1. Looks like we both share some favourite films. I've seen all these and enjoyed them all. Thanks for the link to my post "Memorable Movie Love Quotes". My favourite would have to be Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth. P & P remains the best love story for me. Thanks for an interesting and well-written Valentine's post, Hedda!

  2. Ah, Pride and Prejudice yes. btw i loved your "End of the Affair" post on Valentines Day.