WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — February 16, 2011 — Two days after Valentine’s Day, do you still love your queen? Let me tell you about how I fell in love with my queen, she’s the one with a dirty face.
The years pass and I miss my Daddy. Valentine’s Day was his birthday, as it should have been. He loved unconditionally and reveled in helping you with problems. The way he said “sweetheart” would make the butter in the refrigerator melt.
Some things he said might be misinterpreted if you didn’t know him. A statement like “If anybody’s going to hurt you, I am” simply meant “No one will hurt you while I’m around.” In his later years, the last thing he always told me was “I love you.”
There is nothing in this world like hearing your Daddy tell you he loves you. You know he does, but hearing it patches up any issues you might have ever had with each other.
Working at the newspaper, my Daddy came home smelling like ink. I liked it. He was usually the first one to work and the last one to leave - that was just my Daddy. He always told me “Work like you live, hard and fast.” He did.
I met an older man one time who told me he would never forget watching my Daddy play football. He said he was often up against fellows twice his size that would have their way with him in the first half. The man said by the second half, Daddy always had them figured out. That was my Daddy, he never quit.
Sometimes that’s just the way love is. You have to work at it and survive and sometimes even start over. Unfortunately, it’s not always like the fairy tales with the pumpkins turning into carriages and the glass slippers fitting.
Let me tell you about the Queen, the Queen of Hearts. Daddies generally have “chairs.” They sit in their chair and we all remember our Daddy sitting in his. Mine would play solitaire and watch television and talk to you and teach you a lesson if you would listen. He would explain things as he played.
We had a board that fit perfectly on the chair armrests, perfect for playing solitaire. He appreciated good playing cards, Bicycle or Bee or the ones that “felt right” in your hand. Daddy would count three cards out and turn them over.
As my Daddy was playing solitaire one evening, he turned over a Queen, the Queen of Hearts that had a smudge on her face or left cheek. It could have been ink or something similar. She had a partial thumbprint. It wouldn’t come off.
“Daddy, we need some new cards, the Queen has a dirty face,” I told him. He put the cards down and pointed to that Queen and made one of those “Daddy faces” and cleared his throat.
He said “Son, when these cards were new, that Queen was pretty and she looked perfect.” I don’t think I said anything. Then Daddy said “She does her job, we put her in the box and take her out of the box.”
I was puzzled.
He then went through a series of questions asking me if she (the Queen of Hearts) could still be played on a Black King or if we were playing Blackjack and she was paired with an Ace, would it still be “21?”
After every question, my answer was “Yes.”
“Then, she’s still the Queen?” he asked.
Again my answer was “Yes.”
Daddy put a hand to his brow and looked down and continued to talk.
“That Queen, she came out of the box pretty. She’s done what you’ve asked her to do. She’s been shuffled time and time again and she keeps letting you play games with her. Her face may be dirty, but she’s still your Queen of Hearts. You’ll understand that someday son.”
You might ask how I remember that.
Are you kidding me?
You don’t forget things like that.
If your Queen of Hearts has a dirty face or looks different than she did when she came out of the box, you should love her more. Love her for being there, playing your games, being shuffled and not noticing that your crown is covering a big bald spot.
Fall in love again or maybe for the first time. It’s never too late. Don’t love her just on Valentine’s Day; love her each and every day.
She is one of my most precious childhood memories; the Queen with a dirty face will be in my heart forever.
None of us look like we did when we came out of the box, but that’s ok.
Cards get torn and lost, love your Queen with the dirty face while you can. Love her with everything you have.
This is an adaptation of BN Heard’s original “The Queen with a dirty face,” published on Valentine’s Day. The link below will allow you to listen to him read the original Valentine’s Day version that was shared by thousands.
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