Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I must confess - I have always loved Valentine's Day. There is something so charming about reserving a day especially for telling people that you love them. Before you get started, I know that Valentine's Day is largely a capitalist creation of the evil Hallmark company (or whatever your gripe may be) so please bear in mind that my idea of Valentine's Day is not the one they are selling.

First of all, I believe that Valentine cards sould be homemade, not storebought. I don't care how much they pay some copywriter, s/he is not going to be able to express my love adequately or accurately.

Second of all, I don't think that Valentine's Day should be some sort of test - potential lover coughs up red roses and jewelery, gets end away, happily ever after. No roses, no bling, no happy ending. That hardly seems fair. Either you like each other or you don't, so you get it on, or you don't. Simple, right?

Well, not always. Love only begins as a heady potion, that once drunk can lead us to make fools of ourselves. That's the hook. And, oh, boy, does it feel good. But after the "honeymoon stage" you have to figure out how to keep loving the person you choose, without acting like a fool. I have to say that after thirtheen (yes THIRTEEN) years of marriage, I'm still figuring this out. But it helps me to occasionally remember how I met my husband.

It was my first trip abroad. Everyone else in my family had been to Europe, including my younger sister. And now my older brother was doing a whole semester abroad. It wasn't fair. I had do get out beyond the boundaries of this country so I could call myself a citizen of the world. So I did what any girl from the midwest who was afraid of being kidnapped by gypsies would: I went to visit my brother for my Spring Break. The trip cost me all my savings, and I almost didn't get my passport on time. Then there was a blizzard on the day I was scheduled to depart. The airline told me there were no seats "in my class" available for a week. I cried - in one week, Spring Break would be over, and my parents would never agree to me missing school for this. The reservation agent felt sorry for me and gave me a business class seat on the next fight. After a red-eye flight spent getting hopelessly drunk with a firecracker of an older lady who was meeting friends to drive around Europe, I set foot on non-American soil for the first time in my life. I spent the week checking out museums and getting lost on trains because I didn't speak the language, and for my last full day, took a bus trip with my brother, who, of course, paid more attention to his girlfriend than to me. So I ended up sitting next to a very tall man with a powerful Scottish accent and a bag full of oranges. I wish I could say it was love at first sight, but it wasn't. He tried to speak to me in the local language, to which I snarkily replied "I speak English". He sheepishly went to sleep beside me. Several hours later, my opinion had changed, and I guess his had, too. Then after months and months of letters, phone calls, and trips back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, he moved to the States.

Now if this was a Hallmark Special, that would probably be the end. Maybe a soft focus epilogue of our wedding, with some super short clips of our following travels together tacked on to the end. But that was just the beginning. We have two children together, now. We own our home. We have both worked hard to balance our career goals, which usually ends up meaning taking turns taking priority. We have fought mightily. We have clung to each other in tragedy. We have drifted nearer and farther from each other in real and emotional space, and the two have not always been correlated.

And I was still completely surprised to see a florist box on our front door when I got home today.

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