Valentine’s Day 2012

February 15, 2012

Dot is playing with my phone. “Music,” she demands. “Music!” I open up a playlist that opens with Kelly Hogan’s version of “Rubber Ducky,” a perennial favorite at our house.

A few minutes later, Joni Mitchell’s voice wafts into the bedroom. I love her voice, the way it lifts and falls, the way it sounds like no one else’s, and I have a love affair with “Case of You,” haunting as a siren song, smoky as a bar room, somehow sacred and secular all at once. I am so glad to be home this evening, to be done with the workday, and I am full of love for my little family today, for N who is healing from his surgery (and who brought me chocolates and wine, as though I were some dewy-eyed thing he still needed to work at courting), for Dot and her funny, generous, ornery, powerful little personality. There are worse things than a day about love and somehow I am giddy with it and this song catches at me and pulls my voice up and out of my body, almost unexpectedly.

“You’re in my blood like ho-oly wiiine…” I warble, beginning to get into the chorus.

“No! Stop!” yells my child, who clearly prefers her music undiluted by parental vocal – I’ll be kind and call them – stylings. “Stop!”

I stop, but it’s difficult. It’s hard not to sing along with Joni, hard not to sing this one, even with my undisciplined and shaky voice, my faltering sense of pitch. My mind follows the lyrics and my voice longs to follow –

I remember that time you told me you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet

My first exposure to this song was the movie Truly Madly Deeply, which I love, passionately. The fact that I love that movie so much sometimes makes me wonder, in my more fey moods,  if I’ve been preparing for tragedy my entire life, but I suspect what it really means is something more mundane, like I have a weakness for Alan Rickman’s voice, good acting and screen writing, and the cello (all true).

I used to think I’d never be able to watch that film again. Now I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be able to watch that film again, or, if I can watch it again, what it will feel like. I know it would be, for me, a cry fest, but a good one or a bad one? Where is the line between wallowing and catharsis? Will I be able to get N to watch it with me some day?

And I wonder, often, if I will ever be able to stop longing for my very own version of this:

I don’t know what that would look like with an infant, but I’m guessing the gasping and sobbing would be, roughly, accurate. That clip, just three minutes, has fat salty tears rolling down my cheeks. I watch it and ache with longing and ponder the possibilities of catharsis.

What a tangle.

But Joni Mitchell makes me think of this film, and of all the bitter and sweet loves in my life. I listen, and love and grief and gratitude burble up into my mouth and I am lucky and longing and old and young and jaded and hopeful and foolish and canny all at the same time. And only the powerful fear of my thwarted two-year-old keeps my broken voice from joining the song.

And it is Valentine’s Day, and I wouldn’t trade my bitter and sweet loves for anything.

Even if one is lost to my grasping arms and one won’t let me sing along to my old favorites.




  1. I have to sing along with Joni too. This is beautiful, elegiac writing about love (I didn’t watch the clip – I’m already feeling fragile and sad tonight, I wasn’t sure I could manage it) but your words were powerful and true.

  2. Joni Mitchell shreds my heart. I love, love, love that you wouldn’t trade your bitter and sweet for anything. I so hope to be able to say that some day.

    I just talked to my students about Greek tragedy and catharsis. I’ve had plenty of soul-shaking cries, but none of them has purged me of grief so far.

    I adore Alan Rickman.

  3. Oh, I love that movie (& ditto anything Alan Rickman has done). I saw it pre-Katie, though, & wonder what it would be like now?

  4. I adore that movie, and I too was recenty wondering if I could ever watch it again. I just tried to watch the clip, but had to stop it. Looks like I can’t yet.

  5. I’ve never seen ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ but that clip brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know what it would look like with an infant either, that return. But yes, the gasping and the sobbing, the tenderness, I’m certain that would be the same.

    ‘A case of you’ popped up on one of my play lists this morning. Brooke is right, shredding the heart.

    But I don’t think I would trade either. As those of us who love fairy tales know, trades are never as simple as they appear, there is always a catch. And I think I’ll stick with what I have. Bitter and sweet and tangled as it is.

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