It was our third date. It was at the base of July. I was twenty-six and even though just a few weeks earlier I had been completely, totally, unequivocally done with men and dating and dreaming and all that, I was rapidly falling in love. I had spent the previous decade entrenched in the ups and downs of relationship; the breakups, the blind dates, the awkward first dates, the even more awkward, "Sorry, but I'm not interested." conversations. The rejections from both them and me. I was so bone, heart and marrow weary of it all.
And then, suddenly, here I was with a guy that a friend had met at a local county fair. What?!
I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day. Prior to Aaron, there was very little reason to get excited about it. I was always between relationships when February arrived. And the one time I actually had a boyfriend during this seemingly magical day, it was a complete flop. In all those years of dating, all those guys, not one good Valentine's Day? It seems impossible, but it was true. I told myself it didn't matter, but on some level it did.
It had been an impromptu date. I had just arrived home from a weekend away with my best friends and while on the phone once I returned, he stopped mid-sentence and said, "Do you want me to just come see you?" And so he drove the hour+ to do just that. I'm telling you, this guy is smooth. Somehow we ended up discussing Valentine's Day on our second date as I sat on top of a picnic table in the summer afternoon. I remember I wore a tank top, pink, with hearts all over it that day. And we held hands and talked and Aaron joked about how he wanted a wife who would stay home, barefoot and pregnant (he got his wish!).
And over the next week he told me that we had something to celebrate that coming weekend. We typically only saw each other on the weekends due to work schedules and distance and so I was anticipating Friday night regardless. But now that he was hinting at all this celebratory greatness, I was intrigued. Plus, as I said, I was worn out from all the other guys and this guy was different and focused and intent on, it seemed, proving to me I was worth some sort of pursuit and adoration. It was thrilling.
That night he picked me up at my parent's house and I had on a new sundress and I floated on air it seemed as I nearly skipped to his truck for our date night. He opened the door and told me he had surprises for me. First, flowers. And then a card. And chocolate. And a gift. This man, this guy who I assumed at the start was nothing but a "good ol' country boy" had created Valentine's Day for me.
I know. It's no real wonder I married him, huh?!
At some point in our relationship, maybe it was that night, I don't remember, but he told me that, "every day was Valentine's Day for us." And okay, that's totally cheesy and something you tell a girl you're just first dating and trying to get that first kiss from (ha!) - but now - now that we've been together nearly four years, I have to see some profound truth in that.
There's a Hallmark commercial rolling around this year that drives me up. the. wall. Every time it comes on, I want to scream. Instead I roll my eyes, because screaming randomly is a great way to strike serious terror into the heart of your sensitive toddler. Not the best idea. But the commercial flashes multiple individuals, all making requests such as, "Tell me you love me!' or "Tell me you miss me!", etc. Right. Okay. So, that makes things really meaningful when you demand a certain response or expression from someone. Yeah. That's real special.
A few days ago I watched the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy that I had missed and recorded on our DVR. It was their Valentine's Day edition and a florist ends up in the hospital. He's as cynical as they come and he says how people treat his flowers as though they're magic. And he went on to say how ridiculous it is that somehow receiving an expensive bouquet of flowers one day a year is going to make someone forget how you treat them like crap the other 364 days of the year.
Maybe my husband doesn't focus on showering me with ridiculous stuffed animals and red hearts and over-priced roses on February 14th every year. Maybe I tell him not to (I frequently do, including this year). And I think - how sad would it be to get so worked up over Valentine's Day, because it's that "one day a year" when you're supposed to think about each other? And how sad if I had to trust and lean on that one, inconsequential day to assure myself of my husband's love? How wrong if I had to say, "Tell me you love me!" Right. Like one day that includes a card in a red envelope is going to make up for days and days of neglect.
Maybe my husband's "Every day is Valentine's Day for us" statement of a few years ago was silly and flirtatious and simply born from those early dating days when every day really does feel like a romantic holiday. And I smile and laugh about it in a sense.... but in another I don't. Because whether he meant or intended that phrase to be a promise those few years ago, that's what it has become.
Because every day he shows his love.
Whether it's because he simply comes home every night after a hard day at work or how he plays "airplane" with Joel just one more time because he simply can't refuse that precious, "Again!" from our firstborn. Or how he sleeps in the spare bed night after night so I can have our comfy queen bed for myself and my growing belly and all the pillows comfort requires. The way he'll bring home Wendy's whenever that cheeseburger craving hits. Or how he'll stop for milk when it's just too cold out and I'd rather not leave the warmth of our home.
There are tons and tons and tons of ways that he shows me love and kindness. I don't focus on when Valentine's Day rolls around because I don't need a mandatory day with which to require my husband to prove himself. Even our anniversary every year is relatively simple and we are usually just happy to end up at the local China Buffet, because hey, that's where we went the night we got engaged. It's really, really not about anything other than the person you're with.
My Mom has offered to babysit for us tomorrow so we can have a rare date night. Yes, it happens to be on the evening of Valentine's Day 2012, but that's not why we're going out. Aaron even commented that we'll probably go to Chicago's Pizza because he has a gift card. I mean, that's real life. And it's okay! It's perfect! Does it matter if there aren't any candles? Does it matter if we use a gift card and he doesn't fork over a majority of his salary to pay for an elaborate meal or flowers or something sparkly? Do I care if we end up at a yummy but non-dressy pizza place for our romantic Valentine's Day evening out? Is it about dressing up or is it about spending time with my husband?
I'm ecstatic. I get to spend time with the man I love! (and who loves me!) And that's all I'm thinking about. Flowers, chocolate, diamonds - none of it has entered my mind. And that's because I am loved, provided for and gosh-darn-treasured every day of the year, in some way, no matter how simple. I am so thankful that I don't have to rely on one day a year to feel truly precious by the person in my life who is supposed to love me the best.
No matter what the calendar says, tomorrow is just another Tuesday. What you do with it - how you love - is up to you. And then there is Wednesday and Thursday and Friday.... and those days are up to you, too. The flowers of tomorrow are going to wilt and die. They aren't going to make it very far. They aren't going to sustain you much longer than a week or so. Build and foster and invest in something that is about more than a panicked rush the night before to buy something special or find a $5 card that says all the right things.
Love is focused. Love is daily. Love is not a big box of chocolate. I hope your Valentine's Day is just plain more...
"And I need you more than want you...
And I want you for all time..."
~ G l e n C a m p b e l l