February Surprise: I Carry Your Heart

Monday Morning Musings:

My daughters and I threw a surprise 60th birthday party for my husband this past weekend, just before Valentine’s Day. He thought he was going to a party for one of our daughters. Today is the official celebration of Washington’s birthday (now always on a Monday). It is sometimes called “Presidents’ Day” and combined with Lincoln’s birthday. The line “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” comes from E.E. Cummings.


On February 22nd,

When I was young,

We colored and cut,

We painted and pasted

Images of George Washington

Our first president.

A true commander-in-chief

Tested in battle.

The American Cincinnatus,

The first US President,

A slaveholder,

Fighting for freedom.

He carried the hopes of a nation

In his heart.


Our February schooldays,

Included holiday units,

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,

Whose birthday we celebrated on the twelfth of February.

And so we carried home to our parents

Our construction paper masterpieces,

Revolutionary era silhouettes,

And tales of truthful George and Honest Abe,

Two leaders in war time–

One war to create a new nation

The other to keep it from dissolving.

Revolution and Civil War,

Battle lines crossed, battlefields bloodied.

And as for politics. Do you think it uncivil now?

Look again at the past.

Early campaigns filled with slander, lies, and duels.

Representative Preston Brooks

Beat Senator Charles Sumner with a cane

In a senate chamber in 1856.

Remember that?

I can imagine it today–

Perhaps battery by selfie stick

After a series of vitriolic tweets.

Any subject is possible.

But then it was a bill, new territories,

Popular Sovereignty, Bleeding Kansas,

And Civil War.


Owning other humans.

Indefensible, irredeemable

And yet, we forget

Events long gone, now

Backlit, perhaps a bit of uplighting,

To infuse a rosy glow

And make the past seem romantic?

O Captain! my Captain!

O heart!

Crimes of the past we carry, along with our celebrations.


We also celebrated Valentine’s Day in school,

A holiday that combines ancient Roman fertility rites

And Christian saints.

There’s a combination.

Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote one of the first Valentines

In 1415 to his wife.

He had been captured at the Battle of Agincourt

And wrote poetry while imprisoned in the Tower of London.

He was held captive for twenty-four years,

Plenty of time to reflect and write, though I think it

Just a teeny bit drastic for a writer’s retreat, don’t you?

But no such poetry for our school day parties.

We had pre-printed Valentines–

Roses are red, and violets are blue–

To place in the paper bags decorated with hearts,

A Valentine for each classmate.

We had cupcakes and juice,

Sweet crumbs clinging to our fingers

Like dreams in our hearts

We carried both throughout the day.


Our first date, was a school Christmas dance.

Just before my birthday,

A cold December night,

But we were warm with teenage hopes and expectation,

The giddiness of youth.

My mom told my aunt, you “seemed like a nice boy.”

I don’t know what your parents said.

We’ve celebrated many birthdays, and Valentine’s, too,

Since that long ago night.

I’ve carried your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).


This year you were surprised

Both by the passage of years–

Are we both nearly 60?–

And by the party.

I worried about the last minute snow

That people would not show,

That things would not go as planned.

But all went went.

And you,

Yes, surprised,

And touched, I think,

By the love that people carry for you

In their hearts.


Our daughters, also with February births,

Like you and our Presidents. Our

Family celebrations carried through the month.

We had Valentine’s birthday parties for them

When they were young.

Little girls making heart-shaped cards,

Pink and red, glitter and glue,

Gifts for us and for each other.

Chocolate cakes, sundaes with mountains of toppings,

And sleepovers in the living room.

Later they had their own Valentines,

High school dances, and college romances.

And now our babies are grown

They’ve found love

Beyond parents, friends, and pets

Though those remain, of course,

Because love grows when it is nurtured

It is infinite and endless.

It cannot be contained, though it is carried.

There can never be too much love

To fit,

To hold,

To carry in my heart

With your heart.


Valentine’s Day Wine and Chocolate at Monroeville Winery

26 thoughts on “February Surprise: I Carry Your Heart

  1. Happy Birthday to Hubby … and cheers to the family successfully implementing the surprise party.

    February is quite the big month in your house. Wow! Love the way you took us back to our youth as our elementary school days captured all four holidays (I included Groundhog Day). .. and then toss in birthdays! Woo hoo!!!!!

    … and thanks for intertwining the tidbits of history!

  2. Another wonderful poem. You brought back some of my own childhood memories of making Valentines. Happy Birthday to your husband! Mine turned 60 this year, too, and we surprised him with a small family party in January.

    • Thanks, Robin! A belated happy birthday to your husband! When our girls were little we always did a combined Valentine/Birthday party for them with lots of arts and crafts activities. It made it easy for us. 🙂

  3. Lovely vignettes today. I can certainly identify with these presidents, especially Washington whom I usually picture in silhouette. Happy Birthday to Doug too. I’d give him a copy of Judith Viorst’s Suddenly Sixty but maybe a little too girly for him – ha!

  4. What a great poem, Merril. Happy birthday to your husband and daughters. The party sounds fabulous and lovely photos!
    Would you believe that most Australians probably don’t know the name of our first Prime Minister? It was Edmund Barton in case you’re ever at a trivial trivia night. We probably know more about George Washington.
    hope you have a great week!
    xx Rowena

    • Thanks, Rowena! It was a fun night and fun weekend. He didn’t know our other daughter and her wife would be flying in, so that was an extra surprise. Funny about your PM. I assume most Americans know who George Washington was, but a shocking many do not know when he was president or how it came about.

  5. Beautiful words Merril. Your husband must have had quite a shock to find he was the star of the show rather than a daughter. Well done. I was caught in a similar way on my 60th
    I hope you have a wonderful week ahead of you
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

  6. Happy Belated Birthday to your hubby! How wonderful you were able to surprise him 🙂 I loved your poem, and since I’m in your age group, it brought back SO many school memories. I miss those paper-thin Valentine’s Day cards and sorting through the heart candy.

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