The flying turkey should've been sufficient warning that I was in for my weirdest Valentine's Day ever.
I didn't see the humongous wild turkey in my back yard until it scared me half to death, zooming overhead when I let the dogs out that morning. The only turkey I'm familiar with is the kind relaxing on a platter with stuffing oozing out its backside. I didn't know turkeys hung out in neighborhoods, or that they could fly. I wish the boys had been there to see it.
My father-in-law got married on Valentine's Day, in Florida. At the last minute, it worked out for Donnie and our boys to drive down there for the wedding. So my valentine's gift was an unexpected three days of solitude - and I am always thankful for these rare, quiet times. It didn't end up feeling very peaceful, though.
The phone rang just after daybreak on February 14. It was Donnie, calling to let me know that our son Eli had a fever. I could hear my little guy whimpering in the background. My heart sank into my stomach and I felt completely, utterly helpless. I've never been separated from my children when they were sick.
Sick kids want Mama, and suddenly all the important reasons I needed to stay home didn't feel so important. I just wanted to hold my little boy.
Praise the Lord for free cell phone minutes because we called each other all day long. Donnie found a Wal-Mart to buy all the "sick kid" stuff that would've been in my luggage had I gone along. Because we Moms, we're prepared. Donnie had to learn the hard way, through doing the "sick shopping" alone, why it takes me so long to pack for vacations. My end of the conversation sounded like this.
"Make sure you buy Eli some Sprite. That's his favorite when he's sick. The Motrin has to be berry-flavored and get the bubble gum Tylenol. How much to give him? Just look on the back for his weight. 43 pounds. No, it doesn't matter if the thermometer has a flexible tip. They only have a purple one? That's fine. I don't care if he thinks it's girly - he's sick. No, put back the rainbow Goldfish crackers-they might stain the carpet if he throws up."
The highlight of my day came later. What kind of moron schedules a gynecological exam on Valentine's Day? One who doesn't have her husband at home, I guess. As I sat in the doctor's lobby, a florist delivered a huge bouquet of roses and two heart-shaped boxes of chocolate to one of the nurses. She commented that this was the second delivery from her man. What a contrast he was from the Johnnies-come-lately I saw scurrying around Kroger when I went shopping there afterward.
It was highly entertaining to watch the flood of desperate husbands and boyfriends grabbing up bouquets, balloons, and candy as though their lives depended upon it. For some of them, it probably did.
One young man was pacing the valentine aisle, muttering, "I can't find anything with Sponge Bob! She wants Sponge Bob." He turned to me, wide-eyed and anxious. "Have you seen candy with Sponge Bob on it?"
Another man asked me to help him find coating for chocolate-covered strawberries. I pointed toward the baking aisle and explained that he could just melt chocolate chips according to the package directions. He said, "No, it comes in a little cup. They make it in a cup and you just put it in the microwave!" I explained that while I've seen those cups, Kroger might not carry them. I assured him that microwaving chocolate chips would provide the same result.
The look of panic that crossed his face was one I'd seen on my own husband countless times before. His simple recipe just became mind-bogglingly complex and this big, strong, intelligent-looking man didn't appear to have the fortitude to make chocolate-covered berries if it meant he had to open a bag of chips into his own bowl at home.
When I got home, I found our dog, Annie, sitting at the gate, wagging and waiting for me. Our other dog, Molly was right beside her - in the neighbor's yard. I searched for a hole under the fence but found nothing to explain how she got over there. I know that our neighbor, Ed, loves Miss Molly. Typical teenager - she ditched her family to hang out with her boyfriend on Valentine's Day.
So I didn't get to cuddle with my husband or my boys on the day dedicated to love. But my mom, grandmother, sister and I shared a good home-cooked supper together to celebrate our love for each other. It was a sweet ending to an otherwise peculiar day.
Kari Apted may be reached at email@example.com.