Valentine’s Day can be a challenge for some. It was for me… I wrote this twelve years ago and when I submitted it to The Christian Science Monitor, I sent it to Op-ed instead of their Home section. The Op-ed editor contacted me: “If Home doesn’t use this, I will. I’ve got a husband just like yours!”
Instead, we created our own romantic day
Date, The Christian Science Monitor
My husband, Hank, calls Valentine’s Day, a “Hallmark Holiday.” He feels it’s a commercial ploy to boost card sales, and I vividly remember my disappointment on our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple twenty-five years ago.
Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday that year. We were at home in our tiny apartment. My husband was upstairs in the den watching the UCLA Bruins play the Oregon Ducks in a tightly matched basketball game.
The doorbell rang. “I got a big box of Mrs. Field’s cookies,” I called out to my husband. “They just arrived special delivery!”
I rushed up the stairs to thank him for remembering me on this special day, but stopped halfway up after I read the card. “Happy Valentine’s Day to my new daughter-in-law. Love, Bob.”
Resigned, I pried open the box and continued up the stairs. “They’re from your dad,” I said with a sigh as I plopped down on the sofa next to him. I offered him a cookie and he took it without a second thought, then, noticed the disappointment on my face. “Look, I love you,” he told me. “But I’m not going to let a greeting card company tell me when to show it.”
“Sure,” I said, hugging the tin a little tighter.
Four years of marriage later, Hank actually gave in on Valentine’s Day and presented me with a bouquet of pink camellias from the garden. “It wasn’t my idea,” he confessed, as he handed me the flowers.
“It was mine, Mommy,” our toddler, Allan, piped in.
For the next five years, my husband remained resolute. Whenever I presented him with a Valentine, he’d thank me and re-explain how he felt about the occasion.
On February 14th in our tenth year of marriage, a postcard arrived. “Happy Valentine’s Day” was scrawled in my husband’s precise script on the backside of a snapshot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Away on business, he’d remembered. Better yet, he’d acknowledged it.
But, the change of heart was only temporary. “I missed you,” he said when he returned. “Trust me, I still hate Valentine’s Day.”
I started to dread Valentine’s Day. It seemed as though just days after the Christmas decorations had been put away, the grocery stores and card shops rushed to pull out the pink foil wrapped candy and the velvety heart shaped boxes of chocolates. I cringed when I saw those chalky multicolored heart-shaped candies with the cute messages, the big helium heart-shaped balloons and the “dozen rose’s” specials.
But, with three children in the house, I felt it was important to make a big deal about Valentine’s for them. So, I decorated the front door with hearts, helped make valentines, and even took our youngest son, Joe, to buy some roses for his girlfriend. Waiting patiently in the driveway while our eleven-year-old rang the doorbell to make his big delivery, I saw him strike out, too. The girl was at a soccer game and he had to hand the flowers to her mother.
After fifteen years of marriage, I was tired of silently hoping every Valentine’s Day. “Look, I’m not expecting the big gift, or an enormous basket of roses, or even a lousy box of stale chocolates from the drug store,” I told my husband. “I just want a day where we celebrate love. That’s all. Even a message in lipstick on the bathroom mirror would be great and it wouldn’t cost you a thing.”
“Pick a day,” Hank said.
“April 4th,” I answered, giving him the first date that popped into my head.
“I now dub April 4th ‘Heather Appreciation Day,’” he replied. “That date will be our own Valentine’s Day. Not Hallmark’s.”
From then on, my husband never missed the date. We would either have a special dinner or a romantic lunch. No gifts, just time together. It really should have been “Heather and Hank Appreciation Day.”
Then, it happened. Four years ago, he forgot.
By 5:00pm, after several phone conversations with him, it became obvious that he had forgotten. I decided to remind him with a little humor and make him a “special dinner.”
I opened a can of tuna (leaving the lid up) and stuck a plastic fork in the middle of the can. Placing it in the center of a big white plate, I picked a weed from our garden and put it in a little crystal vase next to the can.
That night, with my husband’s eyes fixed on the screen of his laptop, I stood in front of him—dinner tray in hand. “Hi,” he said without looking up, fingers still tapping the keys.
“I brought you a special dinner,” I said without a shred of sarcasm.
He looked up from the screen, glanced at the tray, and cracked a weak smile. “That for me?”
I’ve never been known for my cooking, and I could tell that, for a moment, my husband actually thought that this was his real dinner.
“I made you a special dinner for our ‘special’ day.”
“Oh, no, I forgot,” he said, sheepishly.
The next two years, he didn’t forget “Heather Appreciation Day.” Last year, in our twenty-fifth year of marriage, we celebrated it in New York with our children.
Hopefully, Hank will remember next year. But just in case, I’m keeping a can of tuna in the cupboard.