"So, Valentine’s Day is coming up," I reminded my husband. "Have you given any thought to making plans?"
Long pause. "Um. When is it?"
I squelched my sarcastic inclination to respond that it was on Feb. 14, as always.
"Ah. Well, I don’t usually make plans this far in advance."
I chose the wrong time to ask him anything. He was sucked into a show on the Speed channel, and that ‘67 Barracuda was infinitely more engaging than his wife babbling on about a silly holiday dedicated to romance.
You know, this will probably prove without a doubt that Jane Austen has ruined my expectations of romance forever, but just once I’d love to hear him answer, "Never you fear, my most darling, precious angel. I have planned something so divine, you will never forget it. Let this be a preview." Then he would stroke my cheek gently with a brush of his fingertips and kiss me lightly before slipping a sparkling ruby ring on my finger. Then he’d climb upon his majestic white horse and ride off into the sunset.
Yeah, I know it ain’t going to happen. The poor guy wasn’t kidding when he said he doesn’t make plans a week in advance. He’s doing good if he figures something out an hour in advance; one of the multitudes of desperate men that descend upon florists, card shops and grocery stores after work on Feb. 14.
I have a few friends whose husbands never do anything for them for Valentine’s Day, not even something as simple as buying them a card. So I shouldn’t complain. As a matter of fact, one of Donnie’s "Johnny come lately" gifts has turned into a favorite possession.
Several years ago he had to work late on Valentine’s Day. He’d planned to buy me a dozen roses on his way home, but everywhere he went, they were sold out of flowers.
Finally, he went to Home Depot and brought home a red rose bush. He tried to convince me that it was what he intended to buy all along. We shared a good laugh over his feeble explanation. But ever since, all summer long, its fragrant, velvety blossoms remind me of my husband’s love.
My only real issue concerning the holiday has nothing to do with last-minute gifts from husbands. I’m trying to figure out how it is that our kids have hijacked Valentine’s Day, too? Because so far, next weekend’s plans center on my children, their parties, their treats and Valentines. But the romance-loving wife in me revolts against this. Kids already own Christmas, Halloween and Easter. Can’t adults take back Valentine’s Day?
We need it. Every couple could use one day of the year to focus on showering each other with love, to pretend that they’re still dating and remember what it was that drew them together to begin with.
Is that selfish? I don’t know — perhaps it is. I just think that we parents today are so consumed with making our children happy, that we forget about the happiness of the one we made those children with.
We tend to think of "love" as a noun, as if it’s that bundle of roses or the box of chocolates. It is nice to receive little tokens of affection. But Feb. 14 becomes a real day of love when we remember that love is an action verb.
It’s not about the words printed on a card. It’s about selflessly giving to your partner the things that are meaningful to them, even if that particular thing means nothing to you. It doesn’t have to be something grand, like in my funny romantic scenario above. It can be a backrub or a foot massage after a tiring day, doing your spouse’s most dreaded household chore, leaving an "I Love You" on the bathroom mirror and taking the time later to hand-write a note outlining all the reasons you love them.
I asked Donnie about his plans to make sure I wasn’t going to trump anything good he might’ve had in store for us. But now I realize that because I love him, I need to make the day about him — not about the kids, and not about me.
Kari Apted may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.