The Kingstons are not big on Valentine's Day. For some reason it has just never been something we celebrate - maybe because our anniversary is two days later (it will be 10 years on the 16th!), maybe because we normally aren't together, maybe because we do a pretty good job of loving and appreciating each other the other 364 days out of the year...but Hallmark is not making a fortune off of Beth and Don - that is for sure.
This year, however - I came across the perfect Valentine's Day gift.
Right before Thanksgiving Don and I had to say goodbye to Lima - our 12-year old retriever/spaniel mix who was an incredible joy in our lives. She was Don's first pet and my constant companion - she comforted me after 9/11 when Don was gone and I was thousands of miles away from home, let me cry in to her soft black fur through nine deployments, was the perfect travel companion as we moved from Hawaii to Georgia to Alaska and back again, and loved the hundreds of people who have come through our home over the years. Lima was our sweet girl and we were devastated.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was in New Orleans and wandered in to the Dutch Alley Artist Co-Op - which for those of us crafty folks is a glorious, inspiring, creative space that is a must visit if you are ever down that way. One of the artists featured there - Kelly Magee - creates animal paintings that immediately capture your eye with her mix of colors and her ability to capture the "personality" of her subjects. There was a little sign on the wall that said she did custom work - and Lima immediately came to mind. I took her card but - to be honest - figured I'd email her and she'd say she charged a bajillion dollars for a painting or it would take six months to finish and that would be the end of it.
Boy was I wrong. Not only were her prices AMAZING, she was as kind as she could possibly be, excited about doing the painting, and I didn't even have to ask about getting it in time for Valentine's Day - she offered. All I had to do was send her a photo, choose my background color, and sit back and wait for one of the most meaningful gifts Don and I have ever received. I gave it to Don last night - and through our tears we remembered how lucky we were to have Lima in our lives, and now we have a visual, tangible memory of her that we can take with us wherever we go.
Lima, our sweet precious girl - thank you for a lifetime of beach-walking, crab-chasing, tennis ball-loving, snowball-eating, bed-snuggling memories. And thank you for giving us one more night to tell you how much we loved you.