You know the honeymoon’s over when you and your new spouse are watching the weather forecast on television, scratching your heads over a small animated cherub floating above Thursday on the five-day forecast.
“What the hell is that little fairy thing?” Amadeus asked.
“Beats the hell outta me,” I replied, squinting at the screen. During the repeat broadcast, I saw it again, and then it hit me.
“Ooooh….” I said. “I think it’s Cupid. That must be Valentine’s Day.”
Later, Amadeus asked, “Now, what day is Valentine’s Day?” Again, we’d forgotten all about it.
We’re a little discombobulated these days. Amadeus’ back is still messed up, my hormones are swirling and draining away like bath bubbles, and for the past ten days, things around here have been about as romantic as a rerun of “Lost in Space.” It’s just temporary, but it feels weird right now, because we’re normally so happy and huggy, sweet and affectionate. It’s hard to be physical with a man in a back brace, because said man is miserable and his misery is compounded by squishing. I’m a squisher.
We’re also sort of opposed to what we think of as Pink Thursday, a retailer’s holiday if ever there was one. We just believe that every day is an opportunity to show each other our love, demonstrated in gestures of varying sizes and expenditures, depending on our moods, our finances and the situation. I told you about the surprise redecorating project that caused Amadeus’ back outage. If that’s not romance, I don’t know what is.
While writing this, I looked up the history of the holiday, and now I’m feeling a bit more Valentine friendly. It was originally intended as a day to honor a badass saint named Valentinus, who was imprisoned for performing secret, forbidden weddings– sort of a Clint Eastwood of marriage officiants, and that’s just cool. Later, during the Middle Ages, the poet Geoffrey Chaucer and his pals took hold of the day and made it into a celebration of love. It’s Geoff we need to thank for the romance of Valentine’s Day–for transforming it from a religious commemoration to a joyous occasion of poetry, flowers and ten-pound boxes of Whitman’s Samplers.
Of course, not everyone was a Chaucer. The average Joe was fairly illiterate, and unable to express love via the written word. In the late 1700’s, companies began printing sentiments on lacy, beribboned heart-shaped cards for men to present to their lady loves. It was sort of a merciful thing, because most of those guys were still probably coming down from Super Bowl Sunday, sluggish from Budweiser and pretzels.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Valentine greetings were mass-produced, and the late 20th century before gift-giving became involved, which resulted in the production of some very unfortunate boxer shorts. At some point, it was decided that children be involved, and once a year, students around the globe exchange horrible puns in class (puns which would earn them an “F” if they’d penned them themselves). Now, every year, on or around February 14th, about a billion pieces of heart-shaped cardboard are purchased. And according to Wikipedia, about 100,000 pounds of Sweethearts, those little pastel conversation confections are made each day for about 50 weeks of the year, and they sell out in six weeks. By my math-impaired calculations, that’s about 5 million pounds of candy hearts per year. They used to bear cute, sassy sayings like, “Cool Cat” and “True Love.” The Necco Company updates them with the times though, and now you’ll find Sweethearts that read, “Sext me,” and “Be my biotch.”
There’s one Valentine’s Day that I’ll never forget. I was in my early thirties, newly divorced, with two small children to raise. I was burning the candle at both ends, working 50 hours a week managing an optical shop in a Costco-like environment. I had no time for dating, and the loves of my life were both under the age of six.
My birthday had blown by without my mentioning it to anyone. Christmas was a day to get through. Like many single moms, my holidays were focused on the kids–the challenge lay in figuring out financially creative ways to make it a special day for them. There was a lot of vicarious joy in watching their eyes light up when I pulled things off successfully, when I somehow managed to kung-fu my way through the crowds to make sure there was a Cabbage Patch Doll under the tree, or a Nintendo under the TV. On Valentine’s Day, I bought them little boxes of chocolates and small stuffed animals and zipped by my Mom’s place to brighten her day as well. My inbox was usually empty, but I was too busy to care.
That February 14th, I was running my department, pretending that it was any other day, when a HUGE bouquet of flowers arrived at my counter. I can still picture those blooms in my mind–dahlias and roses, Shasta daisies and peonies and sprays of baby’s breath. The card simply said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” I was trying to imagine who’d sent them, who could have possibly thought of me, when I looked across the aisle and saw the manager of the pizza department grinning at me. I mimed the question, “From you?” He nodded.
“No woman should be without flowers on Valentine’s Day,” he said when I leaped over to hug him.
There was nothing romantic in his gesture–in fact, he was engaged to The Girl of His Dreams at the time, and we’d had many conversations about his plans for their future. He was just a genuinely nice, caring guy. The flowers made me feel so exquisitely a part of the day–a recipient of beauty and kindness during a time when life seemed harsh and I felt about as desirable as steel wool.
I never forgot it. In fact, I’d even told the story to Amadeus somewhere along the way. It was an act of thoughtfulness that meant so much, one of those little moments that to me, make the world so sweet. People who do things like that generally have no idea of the impact of their actions. People like me never forget.
Amadeus and I were at a baseball game a couple of summers ago, when I looked down from our row in the bleachers and saw someone I recognized. “Remember that guy I told you about?” I asked my sweetie. “The pizza guy who sent me the flowers on Valentine’s Day twenty years ago? He’s here.”
Amadeus knows me well. He knew I’d never pay attention to another moment of the game until I’d gone to talk to the guy. I ambled my way down. His hair was thinner and he now wore glasses. He looked sadder than those retail days; he could have just been tired, or it could have been the natural course that some lives take, the course where youthful optimism is replaced by harsher realities. He sat with another guy, and I wondered if he’d ended up happily ever after with the girl he’d been so infatuated with when we worked under the same roof.
He remembered me pretty quickly. I didn’t want to interrupt his enjoyment of the game, so I kept our reunion short. Through the roar of the crowd he’d told me that he’d gone on to become some sort of financial whiz. There was no mention of a wife or a family, and I didn’t ask. I told him, “It’s just so rare that we have opportunities to let someone know how much their kindness means to us. I’ve never forgotten what you did, and I wanted to thank you again.” He seemed semi-embarrassed, but he was grinning.
I went back to my seat, back to my Happily Ever After Man. Our team won, and sitting up there in the stands with Amadeus was sweeter than those flowers I’d gotten two decades earlier.
The other night, after we’d puzzled over that little wing-flapping Cupid on the weatherman’s diagram, we laughed our heads off. “Oh, how quickly the romance dies,” I said. But we’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day and I’ve always been perfectly okay with it. Amadeus told me when we met that he wasn’t a fan of the holiday, and his boycott has never bothered me a bit. One of the things I love about being married to a curmudgeon is that his romantic gestures are spontaneous. I’d rather have a new rug on a random Monday than a box of chocolates bought out of a sense of obligation.
Amadeus said out of the blue last night, “I’m going to tell the guys in the band that we need to cancel practice on Thursday.” Then he said, “I want to take you to Rudy’s for dinner on Valentine’s Day. “ I was floored, but I just said, “That would be really nice.” And it will be.
People who do things like this generally have no idea of the impact of their actions. People like me never forget. I’m in love with Amadeus, back brace and all.
I’m in so much trouble. My adorable, sweet daughter (the Airman) stopped by last night and brought me a Valentine’s gift, a 225-pound box of Russell Stover candy in a shiny, heart-shaped box. She had to push it in on a dolly. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it’s a big-ass box. I threw my arms around her and thanked her, but quite frankly, I’m sitting here across from it right now, and I’m terrified. There are
44 43 42 pieces of chocolate under that lid, and 3080 calories. The accompanying diagram is lying on the table, and I’ve been poring over it, studying it the way an honor student studies for finals. But this is one test I’m going to fail. 44 43 42 41 pieces of chocolate have been whispering to me all morning, and I imagine they’ll continue doing so until they’re gone. Shut up, Butter Cream.
I wish you all the happiest Valentine’s Day, and I wish I could share my candy with you. Whether you’re with someone else or on your own, I hope your world is filled with happiness and love. But really, I hope all your days are this way, not just Pink Thursday.