February 2021 came cold after this lost year. When I was a child this was one of my favorite months. First Valentine’s day was a favorite art event for me because we got to make boxes for the Valentines we would receive at school and then we would have the Valentine’s day party. Cupcakes and punch. Hawaiian Punch with 7up. I loved that. But I loved making my box and signing and addressing all of my Valentines for my classmates more than anything else. I would spend hours cutting red and pink crepe paper and lacy white doilies and gluing them to a shoe box or a cigar box or a Kleenex box. Whatever I found or my mom found to hold my precious valentines. I would glue all variety of things to the box that fit the Valentine theme. Red and White things, hearts mostly that matched. My favorite collage project of the year was to capture the beauty that love represented in that box. Even as a small child, long before I ever laid eyes on a color wheel, I everything had to match. Love was about matching after all. Match making. Matching the right valentines to the right people. Finding just the right match. That was what the valentines and the box were all about.
My best friends birthday was in February and I could not wait for her birthday party. Any month with a party was a happy month so both a Valentines party and a birthday party, well that was almost as good as December when I got both my birthday and the Christmas party. Seeing my best friend for the whole of my life up to that point happy was very special to me. More than a class mates birthday, more like my sisters birthday.
But time showed me a different side of February. As I got older I realized how cold February actually is. The snowflakes are heaver and lacier, more like the doilies on my Valentine boxes, than in the late fall and early clear blue winter sky that glitters with ice crystals and polar auras. No, February is cold days that get longer in the days that slip toward March when the earth begins to warm again and the winds blow away what is left of fall when the snow melts.
In time too many February’s took my loved ones away from me. I found that even the promise of Valentine’s day and birthday parties lost their sparkle when they were replaced with loss. This year I lost my best friend for the last 18 years the day before Valentine’s day. My precious, my Stella reached the end of her long dog life as my little dog girl. She was a great best friend to the other dogs who looked after her at the end of her life when she lost her sight. But she was mine always. Oh, she loved my husband and my son and most especially my granddaughter. She loved many people in her life, but she was my precious, my shadow and my love. Her trust in me was unmatched, I was her protector and her champion and her mom. We both knew this from the moment we found each other and it was a constant, our constant, unconditional love and trust that kept us bound to each other.
So now even as March has arrived, quietly, softly like a lamb, we still miss her. Eighteen years is a long time to have a constant and loyal companion who loves you unconditionally every single day without fail. She was a gentle little soul and we owed her the most gentle goodbye and that is what she got from us.
So as the winds of March pick up as the days turn longer, lighter, our lives go on with a little sadness all we can do is love the two that remain with us that much more. And we do. They are just as special in their love for us and devotion to us. That is how it with dogs. Shortly after she left us, I found a quote by Steve Allen, a comedian from my childhood:
“Old men miss many dogs.”
And so it is for old women too. Just remembering Stella and her beautiful spirit that will always inspire me to reflect on the lightness and grace of a gentle soul.