“You know we’re not doing anything for Valentine’s Day,” I say in a sweetly menacing voice as my husband and I pass each other in the hall. He rolls his eyes. “Yes, I know. Not my first day on the job.”
It’s not by accident I make sure we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Early in our relationship, when we were still figuring things out, I said the same thing. But then came Valentine’s morning and there they were on the table: roses, chocolates and a trinket. “You didn’t get me anything? Not even a card?” he asked with a look of bewildered incredulity. “But we said nothing,” I mewled. “I thought you meant nothing big,” he replied A quick trip to the store and I spent a load of money to wipe the stench of disappointment I had smeared all over him with my lack of sentimentality. But that was in the early throws of dating.
It’s not that I hate Valentine’s Day, I hate what it represents. A fist down the throat dictate by the greeting card industry of what to buy, when and for whom. I don’t want my husband standing with a crowd of bewildered men pawing through the remnants of Valentine’s Day cards that have been fondled more times than a woman in labor. I don’t want him paying a 400% mark up on roses that looked like they’d been chewed and spit out by a grazing bull. And I certainly don’t want him feeling like he has to buy me a piece of jewelry on the 14th of February to show me how much he loves me.
The best gifts he’s ever given me were surprises I wasn’t expecting and didn’t need. There is the small trio of bath oil, lotion and gel that still stand by the edge of the tub, unused fifteen years later. We hadn’t been dating long when he gave them to me as a gift. “The bottles looked antique and I know you like antiques.” He scratched his head. “To be honest I’m not really sure what antique means or if you even like them, but I saw them and thought of you.” The second best gift he gave me was a little elephant sitting on its hind legs with his trunk in the air. A wedding ring holder he brought back from a business trip. No reason, just because. I think about him every evening when I slip them down the elephant’s trunk and every morning when I put them on. I don’t remember when he bought it, but I know it wasn’t on Valentine’s Day.
A few days ago, I was in the bathroom washing my face when he dropped my mail onto the growing pile on my nightstand. “I thought you’d want this,” he said putting a large rectangular card on top of the pile. “What is it?” I turned off the water and took my hair down from the bun it’s been in since 5am this morning. “It’s a $5 coupon to La Madeleine,” he says putting his watch on the nightstand near the elephant holding my rings. “I though you could get a cookie next time you go.” My hands plucking the tangles from my hair still. He looks at me, perplexed. “Isn’t that where you go to write every Sunday morning?” Silently I nod. “I was thinking it could help you write.” Mutely, I stare at him. My eyes begin to sting. Downstairs children scream, the dishwasher beeps that it’s done and he is in the middle of an umpteenth chore that comes with a house, kids and a twelve year marriage. And during the insanity, as he sorted mail, he thought of me. And my writing. And how important it is to me. And it wasn’t even Valentine’s Day.