Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Everyday Bouquet (from 2001)

The florist was hardly subtle, yet my husband failed to notice the giant pink heart-shaped sticker on the invoice (where we owed nothing), and the words “Valentine’s Day” highlighted in bright yellow.

“Why’s the florist sending us a bill when we don’t owe anything?” he asks. After almost 20 years with this man, I know yet another of cupid’s arrows has missed its mark.

This is the same man who told me he didn’t believe in Valentine’s Day when we were courting, like it was a tale akin to the tooth fairy. We were new to each other then, and he didn’t know I’d spent years developing my romantic notions. I had graduated from a woman’s college, for heaven’s sake, where Valentine’s Day ranked before Christmas as the day every self-respecting boyfriend sent flowers to show the rest of the world how devoted he was to you.

Back then on the Big Day, the deliveries started just after breakfast, and by noon, a sea of roses flooded the Peace College lobby. One year, a pretty bouquet of yellow roses came marked with my name, so the benchmark was set for all my Valentine’s Days to come.
Enter reality, by the name of Rick.

When I met him, a young but already crusty and cynical reporter, he peppered me with “favorite” questions. I had changed my preference to the Bachelor’s Button by then; blue like my eyes, delicate but growing wild in open fields in summer, it was the flower that defined my nature. He seemed reasonably well-educated — despite his preference for Georgia Bulldogs — so I didn’t think I needed to tell him that florists don’t keep them on hand in mid-February.

By Valentine’s Day we were talking marriage, so I was confident he’d show the world — and a newsroom full of crusty, cynical reporters like himself — how much I meant to him. By day’s end, bouquets dotted my coworkers’ desks, but nothing came for me. I was headed home when the man who said he wanted to be my husband stomped, empty-handed, toward my desk.

“I hope it makes you happy,” he grumbled, “that I went to three florists and nobody has Bachelor’s Buttons. Happy Valentine’s Day!”
What magic! What romance! If only I’d known Oprah’s Dr. Phil, back then, I’d have been more specific. Hint: any flower (except carnations) will do.

That August he gave me silk flowers for my birthday. Silk. So they would last longer, he reasoned. Still no bachelor’s buttons.

I married him anyway, confident I’d turn him into Mr. Romantic if given enough time, But February 14ths passed in the newlywed years without so much as a bag of sweetheart candies to show for it. Occasionally I did get a card.

He has redeemed himself a time or two.  Like the day, in the middle of a Georgia summer, when he saw waves of blue flowers blooming between the asphalt of I-20. My young husband came home with a bouquet of the blue-laced flowers, their heads drooping from the swelter. Never mind that he hadn’t paid a dime for them, and he could have been arrested if someone had seen him. He was capable of a true romantic gesture, so I still had hope.

“Valentine’s Day is for amateurs,” he says now. “Why save your show of love to just one day a year?” He reminds me, in fact, that he has sent a Valentine’s Day bouquet once or twice, but then under duress. One year he actually took me out to dinner with droves of other pseudo Romeos; I felt like I was imposing on someone else’s celebration. 

Valentine’s Day bouquets are not as important to me as they once were. Lately, he and I move through our days apart from each other, allowing the tug of family and jobs and a hundred other obligations to take precedence over something as silly as our own romance. It is all too easy to forget the time when we only had each other to care for. But though our lives are full and busy, something, something is missing from the mix.

Love me in the middle of the muddle I remember saying to him when our kids were small but I don’t think I truly understood my meaning until now. My husband, crusty as he is, is right: True romance doesn’t come once a year because the greeting card companies say it should. It happens in tiny moments — dancing in the kitchen, watching our children in conversation, holding hands while we sleep— when we remember why we pulled toward each other all those years ago. And despite all his grumbling, I know he needs that as much as I do.

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