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?