The Valentine’s Day Five

I will preface this post by stating that I’m not a Valentine’s Day person. I typically don’t go in for all the schmaltzy, gooey trappings of this force-fed holiday.

So why am I posting this Valentine’s Day? Perhaps subconsciously all of the items I’d pulled together for my usual Friday Five post were of the same vein. Each is wonderful on its own, but today it seemed appropriate to post them all together.

1. Nothing good gets away. Nobel laureate John Steinbeck (1902-1968) might be best-known as the author of East of EdenThe Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men, but he was also a prolific letter-writer. Among his correspondence is this beautiful response to his teenage son Thom’s letter, in which the boy confesses to have fallen desperately in love with a girl named Susan while at boarding school. Steinbeck could have brushed off his son’s feelings, but instead replied with tenderness, optimism and timelessness.

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



Via Letters of Note, a wonderful site collecting correspondence of note from well known people with a book coming out in May 2013. Makes one wonder what will happen in the future. “Tweets of Note” just doesn’t sound nearly as interesting.

2. Paper Airplanes. The most heartwarming short film you’re likely to see today.

Many thanks to Lorna for sharing this lovely video.

3. How do people fall in love, part 1. Author Gemma Elwin Harris asked thousands of grade school children between the ages of four and twelve to send in their most restless questions (Why can’t I tickle myself? Are we all related? Who named all the cities? What makes me me? Is it okay to eat a worm? Who invented chocolate? If the universe started from nothing, how did it become something? Why are some people mean?), then invited some of today’s most prominent scientists, philosophers, and writers to answer them. The result is Big Questions from Little People & Simple Answers from Great Minds, a compendium of fascinating explanations from experts in their fields such as Mary Roach, Philip Pullman, Bear Grylls, Philippa Gregory, Noam Chomsky and Mario Batali with part of the proceeds being donated to Save the Children.

I thought one of the most intriguing answers was to the all-engulfing question: How do we fall in love? Author Jeanette Winterson offers this response:

You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signaled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)

And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.

P.S. You have to be brave.

4. How do people fall in love, part 2. Ever since humans could tell stories, we’ve been trying to describe how it feels to be in love…from Shakespeare (“Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?”) to  J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield (“I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty… you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.”) to Longfellow (“It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know that it has begun.”)

Jeanette Winterson’s lovely explanation aside, perhaps my favorite explanation of how we fall in love is from author John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars. The main character tells us: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

How would you define love?

5. Heart Attack. A silly and fun dance of hearts.

Bonus 6. I couldn’t resist adding this video because there is nothing that makes me happier than to see joyful dogs loving the moment. Here, they are enjoying the sun and sand at a dog beach in Chicago.

Now that I’m appropriately in the spirit, I’m ready to spread the love. For the next two days—February 14–15, 2013—my book, The Subway Chronicles: More Scenes from Life in New York, is free on Kindle. If you love the book, then please leave a loving review on Amazon. (That’s a lot of love!)

Don’t own a Kindle? No problem! Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry or Android. The Kindle version is free for only two days. Tell a friend. Spread the love!

How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day? Have a great weekend everyone!



  1. One of my favorite Friday (??) Fives ever! And I’m not a Valentine’s Day person either, but I love getting flowers and chocolate and cards from MEH… and I loved that paper airplane movie. Okay, I admit it, I’m SUCH a sucker for Valentine’s Day!


  2. Oh Jackie–so much wonderful loveliness for my day, thank you!! And the news of your free Kindle–I will gladly spread that too!

    I may have mentioned this before but Valentine’s Day is Olive’s birthday so as soon as she came into my life, the day took on a new and very special significance. Tell Reggie to take an extra treat and an extra belly rub for Olive today.

    Hugs to you both and wishes for a wonderful weekend!


    1. Oh, I love that today is Olive’s special day. Is this her actual birthday or adopt-a-versary?

      I don’t know Reggie’s birthday so we celebrate the day I adopted him. He has a special red velvet “pup” cake waiting for him this evening and we’ll eat it in honor of Olive!


  3. I thought I’d just check out a bit of ‘Paper Airplanes’, but it totally sucked me in. I really, really like the b/w and over-all ‘retro’ feel it has… just kind of ‘classic’, you know?!


  4. I’ve always loved that letter Steinbeck wrote to his son. My favorite book of his is Cannery Row. Such characters in that one. I should pick up a collection of his letters. He is one of my faves after all. Happy Valentine’s Day. Miles says hello to Reggie.


    1. My favorite part of that letter is at the end when he writes: And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away. How true!

      Cannery Row is one I haven’t read. ~blush~ I remember visiting Cannery Row in Monterrey, CA and thinking, I need to read this book! Still on my TBR list. I’m reading Candide right now. Have you read it?

      Happy Valentine’s Day to Miles. Reggie would like to let Miles know that he ripped open his plush toy and then ate all of the stuffing out of it. He thought it was delicious.


      1. I love Candide. I’ve read it many times and always laugh and think. Cannery Row is awesome. The followup, Sweet Thursday, isn’t as good, but still funny.

        Way to go Reggie. I hope it was in record speed. And I hope no tummy ache.


      2. Thankfully Reggie has an iron stomach. Did I ever tell you about the time he ate a man’s sock? It was in there for 8 days. Must have taken up his entire stomach. But he never missed a meal. 🙂


    1. There’s a dog in that video who just leaps through the waves like a deer. I always smile when I watch it. (He looks like Reggie romping through the snow.)
      I remember in San Diego (just north – Carlsbad?) there is a lovely dog beach. My friend and I spent a good hour watching this lab run through the waves time and again for a stick. 🙂


  5. What a lovely post to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Thank you!

    Loved the letter from John Steinbeck to his son. And of course the doggies on the beach. I always like watching Rosie on the beach because she’s so happy and carefree.


    1. It’s a wonderful thing to watch dogs romping on the beach. I’ve taken Reggie to Coney Island. He seems to be a little scared of the waves. He puts his feet in the water and then runs away when the waves come in. I’ll have to take him again and see if he changes his mind. 🙂


  6. I’m too late. The Paperman video is now private. *sigh* I loved everything else I read/watched, though. I’m not a fan of Valentien’s Day, either. Even happily married, I think the holiday has a tendency to break more hearts than warm heart. Cynical much? (giggle)
    I think the letter between a father and his son was the best. Makes me so sad the postal service is having financial problems. I don’t like the thought of a world without handwritten notes, cards, and letters.


    1. Oh, that’s a shame. I think they might have made the video private because it’s been nominated for an Oscar. Keep an eye out.

      The idea behind Valentine’s Day is lovely, but then it seems to turn into a competition and a lot of posturing. Who says you need to spend hundreds of dollars to show someone how much you care about them?


  7. Gosh darn, I suppose it serves me right for getting here so late–but I would have LOVED to get your book for free. What can I say? This moving thing is kicking my butt. I don’t seem able to keep up.. Sara and I only went out for pizza on Valentine’s Day–and for lunch–not even dinner. We’re boring. Hope you had a lovely holiday, my friend.


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