Valentines day is coming up:)
When I was little and heard the story about the origins of Valentine’s Day it always stuck with me.
There are a few legends I know, but the one I was told was this… During the third century in Rome there was a priest named Valentine. The Emperor at the time believed single men were better soldiers than men with families, so he outlawed marriage. Valentine continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When he was discovered, he was put to death. So we are basically celebrating a man who fought for love and celebrating the freedom to love:)
Around this time of the year I think of all the amazing love stories I have witnessed in my life. But one in particular stands out to me….It is like a fairytale to me because I never actually knew the people. I only knew of their story through their things….
When I was 12 my mother happened upon an estate sale in Burbank, California on a Sunday. Like always, she had us in tow. We always went open housing and estate sale crawling on Sundays, which I still love doing. There is nothing like walking in to see how other people live:) Anyways, this house was crammed with a lifetimes worth of stuff. The wife, Diane, had passed away a few years earlier and the husband, Bill, had recently passed. They had no children and had no living relatives. His best friend was running the sale….Herb.
We slowly made our way through each crowded room. There was so much stuff that Herb just priced things as people would inquire. I noticed the walls were carpeted and asked why someone would choose such a strange design. I learned Diane had been in a wheel chair the last few years of her life and Bill always wanted to keep her hands protected when wheeling through the hallways. Her closet hadn’t been touched, her things meticulously kept just the same. Bill had met her when they were both very young and they had spent their entire lives together in this home and it was very evident. As Herb spoke of this couple we began to fall in love with them as well. There were pictures on the wall of Bill from the forties. My little sister, Ashley, (who was 9 at the time) kept saying “I know this man” “No Ashley that photo is from a very long time ago” “I do..I really do!”
After having spent the majority of the day there with Herb, listening intently to him recount fondly his pals and their glamorous old Hollywood stories, a man walked up to Ashley. “Aren’t you the little girl from Growing Pains?” “Yes”. A conversation started and Herb interrupted. “Wait you did know Bill!” He walked us into Bills jam packed office and sitting amongst a million things was a tiny framed picture of Ashley with Bill!!! Bill had been one of the heads of Warner Brothers and the founder of Toys for Tots. Every year Toys for Tots takes a picture with the oldest and youngest person at Warner Brothers. A month before he died, he had been the oldest and Ashley the youngest!
This tiny 2 bedroom home was a treasure… a mess… but still a treasure. “We are about to put the house on the market” “I want it” said my mother. Meanwhile my father was out of the country. He was a ship captain and was unreachable for weeks at a time. He often would return home to find mom had made a huge life change, a pool built on a whim with no prior discussion, a car bought, the house completely redecorated… but never had she bought a house while he was away! At the time we were living in a large 3 bedroom house across town and mom decided we would leave it and move into this tiny, carpet walled home! That’s my mama for you…. The stories I could tell about mama…Which I will!
Within 30 days we had the keys to the home (with everything in it mind you!). So ALL of our furniture from a house over twice the size plus their stuff which was packed to the ceiling. What an adventure it was rifling through all the things and deciding what stays and what goes.
The back house was a full editing and developing room with the giant old equipment. It was donated to the Warner Brothers museum, which to this day I haven’t gone to see. We were starting to feel as if we knew them as time went on. We would sit and cry over pictures. They had such a love story. he was a photographer and photographed her every moment of every day. You could tell with the angles and how he captured her that even after all the years together he still desired her. There was such a look in her eyes as she stared through the lens at him.
After some time we went into the attic. There was a rocking chair and small table and lamp. Why on earth would someone sit up here. Then we put the pieces together…There was a nude painting of Diane propped on an easel and a stack of letters over a foot high. They had saved every single correspondence from the moment they met!!! They had written each other love notes until the day she died…he’d even written a few after…
They taught my preteen heart so much about love:) I sat up there reading about fights and how they made up through their letters:) That you stay when you love someone even through the hard times. Marriage is meant to last and you fight for the one you love. You keep the romance alive even in times of boredom. You WORK on your relationship like it is the most special garden. A garden that needs daily tending to, enough sun and just enough water.
So this time of the year I think of Bill and Diane, as I often do as Valentines creeps up…
I hope to have a love story like theirs, for they definitely were an inspiration for mine:)