Oh, February, guardian of the gate between ice and thaw,

you scamper in with promises and leave before your time.

February may be the shortest month, but it carries weight. It is a time to celebrate love and presidents, hearts and history. Red is the color of the hour. Campaigns are waged for women’s cardiac health, a reminder that women’s heart problems have not always been treated with the same concern as men’s. Often, our complaints were dismissed, our insistence that something was wrong ignored. Finally, this month, there is overt recognition of the need for awareness and a different approach to women’s health issues.

February is also the month to celebrate Presidents, to recall the honorable service of most of our forty-six leaders, and to admit the dishonor of a few. School children may be granted a day off school, federal workers a national holiday, but until our history lessons reflect the true nature of the administrations that have shaped our nation, a skewed vision of destiny will continue to prevail.

And it is in February’s nod to romance that we find perhaps our strongest connection to each other and to our past. Romance novelists may not always garner the respect they deserve, but their sales rival the biggest best-sellers and their readers are loyal. Why do we crave these tales, be they set in historical time periods or developed in the modern stew of life during COVID? Because the desire to believe in love that lasts a lifetime cannot be undone or tarnished by cynicism or statistics, that the very human need to find connection and celebrate a love that endures drives us to pursue, in real-time and vicariously, the idea of true, eternal, faithful love. In this COVID time, there are nightly stories by news reporters that support the contention that true affection does not have an expiration date. The tales of couples dying within days, hours, minutes of each other bring us to tears and restore that belief in the intangible. We refuse to relinquish our hold on the transcendent, to abandon the fantasy of emotion that conquers every difficulty, up to and including death.

This month, especially, I openly admit to owning a romantic soul. I am hopelessly attracted to the idea of white knights and heroic maidens. Yes, the legends, myths, epics, and sagas of the past, the histories of nations, are often misogynistic, but search deeper and you will find that women can be more than damsels in distress. They can be warriors and rulers as well. Boadicea. The Amazons.  Cleopatra. Queens Elizabeths and Victoria. Of course, somewhere along the timeline, the images of queens in armor gave way to patriarchal kingdoms with females kept in castles while men had all the adventures. At some point, women lost their co-equal role as protectors of the realm. It’s taken us a long while to regain our standing. And women remain the keepers of the flame, loving freely, giving of themselves to others, accepting that often loss and sorrow are the price of that love but paying it still.

P.S. Watching the inauguration of a new president and vice-president, the assigning of roles in a new administration, I count the women who have risen and remember the shoulders that lifted them up. There are heroes among us, and I salute them.