Covered Wagons and Carnations

A couple of nights ago, I was at the grocery store, eager to get home, when I realized I’d put my stuff on the belt of the chatty checker. He’s the guy who loves to whine about the people he’s helped that day, or tell me about his sick dog, and while I try to be nice, I think he can tell that I’m just being polite; I smile and nod, but really just want to get home. Whenever I go through his line, I leave the store thinking that he’s probably badmouthing me to the person behind me in line.

This week he asked me what I was doing for Valentine’s Day. I thought to myself, “Oh crap! It’s almost Valentine’s Day?” but recovered nicely, murmuring something about breakfast for the kids and class parties. He went on to tell me all about how he’d made reservations three months in advance at La Caille, a restaurant near Salt Lake City where the owners have tried to recreate a French chateau, right down to the servers displaying maximum cleavage a la Marie Antoinette.

“Oooh, fancy,” I sighed, hoping he’d finish before my ice cream melted.

“Yeah, it’s going to cost me a lot.”

“I’m sure she’ll love it,” I said.

“She’d better, if she doesn’t,” he said, “we’ll have to reevaluate this relationship.”

When my dad was in college, he did the checker guy one better, if he didn’t like where a relationship was headed, he broke up with his girlfriends just before important holidays where he’d be expected to give gifts. My mom said she knew he really loved her when they got through Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day without him getting cold feet.

The first year I was dating my husband, he did his best, he really did. The poor guy was eighteen and he made a dinner reservation at a place he thought was really cool. Come Valentine’s Day we found ourselves eating barbecued chicken inside a covered wagon. It was fun, sitting there in the dark next to my beloved, but not exactly romantic (I think I hit my head on the table when I dropped a fork into the body of the wagon).

The year we were engaged, the only thing I remember is that he gave me carnations. “Carnations?” I fumed. Carnations, in my twenty-two-year-old mind, were not romantic flowers. They were the kind of cheap flowers you gave to someone on a first date your mom had put you up to, not the kind you gave to the woman with whom you planned to spend the rest of eternity. I had visions of him stopping at 7-Eleven on the way home from work every Valentine’s Day, quickly grabbing for a white plush bear holding a box of waxy chocolates. I thought I needed to train him, instead I hurt his feelings.

All these years later, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have the same charged atmosphere it did back then. He’s getting a card and a bag of his favorite candy, purchased from the bulk section. If he brings home a tacky teddy bear for me, I have a four-year-old who will be happy to take it off my hands. But also gone is the air of anticipation, the giddy making out (in the covered wagon), the jumpy eagerness to just get the engagement over with and start our lives together. That’s not to say Valentine’s Day isn’t nice now– I mean who doesn’t love trying to be creative for the kids, making pink pasta for dinner, and falling asleep in the lingerie you bought before the last kid is finally down for the night? If I’d known that the covered wagon and the carnations would be my most memorable Valentine’s Days, I probably would have been a little nicer.

What are your most memorable Valentine’s Day memories? Have you managed to keep the spark in your Valentine’s Day after marriage and kids or has the focus shifted?

About Shelah

(Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

24 thoughts on “Covered Wagons and Carnations

  1. A covered wagon certainly has the potential to be romantic, depending on how covered it is :)

    We are still pre-kids (for another 3 months that is), and Valentine’s for us is not dramatic, but it is nice. We give each other a budget for gifts, which we spend on something sexy (like lingerie or massage oil), and we go out to dinner. I think the budget helps keep expectations in check.

    I look forward to having kids and making Valentine’s sweet and special for them, but I hope to keep at least a nice date with my husband as part of the tradition.

  2. Our first Valentine’s Day after we got married, we waited for over two hours to eat at Magleby’s, and ended up sharing a table with another couple from Matt’s job just so we could eat and not have to wait longer.

    Our second Valentine’s Day we got takeout because I was on bedrest. And that stuck, because we still do takeout, which I like.

    One of my favorite Valentine’s Days ever was on my mission, in Loja, Ecuador, when we delivered valentines to all our members and investigators. They were delighted and it made me very happy.

    And I confess to (still, after being married eleven years) getting squiffy about carnation-esque stuff. I try not to, and I sometimes succeed at being easy-going, but when I fail I fail so spectacularly that it is all too memorable. Luckily my husband is patient and forgiving.

  3. we went to meet his family for the first time. It was not a charming romantic holiday, but we somehow got married anyway. Today, 12 later, I got a book I really wanted to read. The man knows me.

  4. I got a card on my pillow this morning. Some chocolate would have been nice but he was thinking of me! Chocolate would have been nice but I’ll be buying my favorite one to share with him tomorrow plus my birthday is next week and my kids always get me chocolate (they know their mom well). After nearly 20 years Valentine’s isn’t a big deal because I love my husband deeply whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not. I’d rather a have a gift or card because my husband is thinking of me not because it’s a holiday.

  5. best Valentine’s Day? The day my first son came into the world nineteen years ago. Nothing can rival that night.

    It’s still my favorite holiday– I decorate a month ahead of time and we spend hours making homemade Valentines for friends and family (I believe I’ve made 14 dozen cookies this week). We’ll be up late tonight doorbell ditching our neighbors and spreading a little love.

  6. Carnations were our wedding flower, so if my husband remembered that and bought them for an occasion, I would be smitten :)
    We never do much for Valentine’s. It has been really fun making and sending sweet cards with my 2 year old this year though!

  7. Oh my goodness! I’ve been to the covered wagon place – no making out there though.

    My husband and I were just talking about the year he did the romance up right by buying me two of the “Work and Glory” books. Be still my heart.

    In general, he is a notoriously bad gift-giver. Good thing I didn’t marry him for the gifts! 16 years later, we skip the gifts altogether. It’s for the best.

  8. My DH proposed on Valentine’s Day after a horse-drawn carriage ride around Victoria, B.C. and had the ring on the stem of the single white rose in a bouquet of red.

    This morning he snuck a box of chocolates – red and heart-shaped, even – and a sweet card on my pillow while I was dealing with the baby.

    I read somewhere on the Bloggernacle a couple of years ago a great idea. I got him a nice journal and on holidays like this, or other special times, or just when the mood strikes, I write him love notes and the like in it. That way he has a book of love to treasure forever. :D

  9. Valentine’s Day is somewhat problematic for us. We’ve done three Valentine’s Day dances – and he doesn’t like them much because he feels he doesn’t dance well. We can’t really get into the making valentine cookies with the kids like his mom did, and the rest of the time there has always been some financial upset that precludes gifts. We apologize to each other, we may exchange cards, but that’s it. We hate feeling obliged to observe yet another holiday, but we try to make a point of voicing our appreciation to each other.

  10. I have a serious problem accepting gifts that I feel are not truly thought out and specifically meant for me. It has caused my husbands feelings to be hurt more than once, and I know I need to just get over it. We are quite a pair….I set store by what gifts I am given, and for our first anniversary he gave me a how to pioneer craft book….And that was it. I think he thought I really liked pioneers or something, and maybe I would like to make a corn husk doll??? But really, I am the one with the problem, he tries, he really does. This was a great post. I need reminding of how lucky I am. He made me a perfectly cooked steak for dinner tonight, now that is my kind of Valentine’s Day gift.

  11. We don’t usually make a big deal out of Valentine’s day — neither of us cares too much about it. There’s something incredibly pathetic about men digging through the remains of Valentine’s day detritus on the evening of the 14th, desperate because they forgot.

    This year my husband gave me a box of Giant Microbes, and I’m in heaven.

  12. This holiday is not my favorite. Being sick I cried today when flowers arrived from my husband because I had to unpack them from a box and do the whole routine to put them in the vase and they were half dead. All I wanted was a nap and a clean house. By the time my husband got home I had a nap and perked up so when he lamented over the sad state of the flowers I said, “I know you tried to do something nice, the florist just wasn’t good.”

    Every Valentines day since I was a child the world’s notion of love hasn’t matched what I get (its somewhat reminiscent of Mother’s Day). Thankfully I’m beginning to realize that what the world portrays isn’t what I really want anyway. I am all for throwing Valentines day out the window and expressing our love when we feel like it and in the ways we most appreciate, not when the calendar says we should with roses. (I like daisies better.)

  13. We just flat out don’t give each other gifts. Not for valentines day, birthday, christmas, anniversary (29 years come june). What we do give each other is sincere, heart-felt thanks for not giving a gift and for not expecting a gift. And then we play scrabble.

  14. He did bring me roses once (they were carnations, but the plywood sign by the side of the road said ROSES so he thought they were roses), but it wasn’t for a holiday. I loved them.

  15. We don’t really do V-day, although we did have Martinelli’s with the family dinner tonight. My husband cleaned up a bathroom of vomit tonight, and that means more than any card written by Hallmark or whoever.

  16. I previously had plans tonight involving a blacklight and yellow highlighters (thanks thedatingdivas.com!) I worked (and worked and worked) all day long to finish up “spring cleaning” our bedroom as kind of a Valentine’s Day gift, but then our moods instantly went sour when he got home and I made a comment about how he needs to get rid of some of his books, because there’s too many for our bedroom bookcases, and we’ve been sniping at each other ever since. I think my plans will wait until our anniversary on Wednesday. Bppppttt.

  17. I have 2 issues:

    1) being given gifts because of a calendar mandated occasion. It makes me feel like a “have-to” in someone’s life instead of a “want-to”.

    2) when we are upset or unhappy about a gift not meeting our “requirements” or our
    “standards”, we completely negate the fact that someone was thinking of us, spending thought, time and effort to choose and to make or purchase what to them was a gift they thought would please us – and our attention is on ourselves via the gift rather than the heart of the giver.

    Another opportunity to really evaluate where we are on the “self-centered” scale or “other-centered” scale.

    For me, small, random expressions of genuine appreciation or love, either through gifts or cards or notes or whatever type of communication have far more meaning than calendar driven gifts.

  18. This year, being engaged and just 4 days before our wedding, was pretty memorable. He picked me up from work and had cooked me dinner. He also gave me one of those stuffed unicorn pillow pets that is sooooo soft. Then we watched a movie and made ridiculous valentines with my scrapbook paper. Absolutely perfect.

  19. I made dinner and cleaned as much as a four-month old and two-year old would allow me and then me and the two-year old made cards for the husband. Then when DH got home, he took the kids and made cards for me while I cooked.

    In retrospect, we should have put the kids to bed before I started making dinner.

    After dinner and kids’ bedtime, we tried to watch _When In Rome_ and got bored after 3 minutes. Then we tried _Bounty Hunter_ and got really bored after 10 minutes. So we gave up on silly movies altogether and watched a fantastic episode of the BBC’s Top Gear.

  20. Ah Valentine’s Day. For our first valentine’s day I got my husband a card and a box of candy. He got me nothing. Nothing. I was so mad! The next year I think he got me a teddy bear or something, but that didn’t make up for the fact that he pretty much sucks at Valentine’s Day. For the past few years I’ve gotten chocolate, which is great, and he usually remembers to get something for our daughter.

    This year we got our daughter a gift, and went out to dinner (with the 5-year-old) and called it good. Yeah, nothing says romance like dinner at Bajio with your kid.

    To be fair, my birthday is in February and I would much rather get roses then at a fraction of the price they cost on Valentine’s Day.

  21. I know a lot of people hate the pressure of finding romantic/sweet/perfect gifts for Valentine’s Day, but my husband and I still look at it as an opportunity to do something special for each other. Maybe once we have kids, it’ll be more of a hassle. This year, with money tight, we used our last two gift cards from Christmas to get very practical gifts–shoes for me, kitchen utensils for him. Some little surprise love notes and apple pie for dessert made it a very sweet, very low-key day.

  22. And I did get carnations for Valentine’s Day last year, but the roses would have been much more expensive and my husband really wanted to get me flowers, so I let it slide. :)

  23. Considered a hubbie cleaning up a bathroom of vomit a great valentines gift… fell asleep in your lingerie… You gals are too funny! Thanks for your honesty.

    Segullah is my new love.

Comments are closed.