I am not really big into holidays, as anyone who works with me can tell you. My favorite holiday is the Fourth of July because nothing is expected of you in the way of gifts.
Christmas bums me out. New Year’s Eve is amateur night, Thanksgiving is ‘choosing which family members’ to be with and then wishing you had chosen the other side, Easter is an excuse for some to attend church for the first time since Christmas and to have new spring clothes …. but, Valentine’s Day has to be my least favorite of all holidays and now it is over for another year.
Here is a theory about how it all began. In the third century, Emperor Claudius II had a hard time getting soldiers to join his many bloody and unpopular wars. He believed that the reason for this was the men did not want to leave their families, so he canceled all marriages and engagements in Rome.
A Roman priest, appropriately named St. Valentine, couldn’t go along with this and continued to perform marriages. When his actions were discovered, he was sentenced to death. While in prison, he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. Before his death on (you guessed it) Feb. 14, he wrote a letter to his sweetheart, which he signed, “From your Valentine.”
And from this bloody story, we are suppose to give or get flowers, candy, gifts and romantic evenings with our loved ones? Sorry, I never did buy into it.
Of course, when I was young and unmarried, I loved getting the flowers and the candy. But marriage and hard economic times have a way of putting things into perspective. Is it more important for you and your spouse to pay the monthly mortgage or to receive a bouquet of flowers and heart-shaped box of candy? What’s best? Food for the week or a meal at a nice restaurant, plus baby-sitting fees?
I really began to look at the holiday differently in the seventh year of my marriage. I had left the workforce to care for my youngest child. My husband and I had decided that because of her medical problems it would be better for me to become a stay-at-home mom. I was unemployed for the first time in my whole life. I was at home with a newborn and a 4-year-old.
And, that winter it snowed. The bad weather started sometime about November and didn’t end until April. And, my husband decided that he wanted to make a career change and went from teaching school to becoming a general contractor.
The timing was impossible. It was 1977. Interest rates went through the roof and most of the time when I was able to get out of the house, it was to wait in line at a gasoline station to fill up a vehicle. We had no disposable income. In fact, sometimes we had no income at all.
In February, the flu hit our house. Everyone was sick. The laundry piled up and let me tell you, the bathrooms really needed cleaning. I didn’t have time most mornings to get dressed and sometimes it was almost bedtime before I realized I was still wearing my housecoat.
Then, filled with my self-misery, on Feb. 14, I heard the doorbell ring. I glimpsed a flower delivery truck parked in my driveway and my heart skipped a beat. I hadn’t gotten flowers in a long, long time.
With one child on my hip and the other hanging onto my leg, I opened the front door to a delivery guy holding a dozen red roses, complete with a red ribbon around the crystal vase and baby’s breath pushing through the roses.
My heart melted.
“Mrs. Rawlins?” the guy asked.
My heart sank.
“No, (expletive deleted), she lives across the street.” I shut the door and started crying.
I knew we couldn’t afford flowers, but I really ‘NEEDED’ those flowers.
That evening, my 4-year-old told his daddy that mommy cried and wouldn’t take the pretty flowers from the man, so of course that required an explanation on my part.
The next day, my husband said he was going to give me a treat and watch the kids while I did nothing but rest and read. To help me achieve this solitude, he said he was taking them to visit and spend the day with their grandma.
Ah, luxury. When they left, I filled the tub with warm water, squirted in dishsoap (cause I couldn’t afford bubble bath) and soaked for a long time. I put on some nice clothes and some make-up (I almost didn’t remember how to do that) and sat down to read a new Stephen King book. A lovely day, a day of solitude that I so desperately needed.
When my family returned late that afternoon, they had a surprise for me. They had stopped at a discount store and bought me two beautiful candle holders and each child (to his or her own capabilities) had colored me a Valentine while they were at Grandma’s house.
I hugged and kissed all three of them and told them how much I loved them.
Later that night, I apologized to my husband and told him to never buy me another Valentine gift. I had a gift that couldn’t be bought — a husband and two children who loved me.
On Tuesday of this week, I watched an interview with a couple who had just celebrated their 70th anniversary and they talked about what made their marriage last. I agreed with them. Here is how we have made the 43 years we will celebrate in May.
Recipe for Love
Share common goals but don’t be afraid to have separate interests
Sometimes just agree to disagree
Always have dinner together (and it will be better if you worked together to prepare it)
Be true to yourself and your spouse
Smile at something he or she says daily
Remember the past fondly and look forward to and plan your future together
Put your spouse before all others — including children, friends, job and parents
Mix all ingredients, add a dash of love and any spices you deem necessary and let it simmer for years to come.