I don’t harken back to my early years of marriage as much as I used to. It’s not because it’s hard, in fact I have finally crested that hill where these memories make me smile more than tear up. Most memories give me good times to go on from years ago.
Let me begin with the fact that, at least on principal, I don’t really like Valentine’s Day that awful much. I suffered from having a significant other whose expectations were high and often never met by her spouse. Add to that the fact that this day falls right in – you guessed it – the middle of a television ratings period, and I’m basically a stereotypical Hallmark commercial showing the worst that can happen. So I won’t go into the Valentine’s night where – for a good deal of money – I had a contract to play a gig, much to Andrea’s consternation. (Though I will say we ended up with Abbi nine months later)
This comes, actually, from a query by my friend Rene Syler. She asked about the best/worst Valentine’s Day gifts. While I could go into the myriad of jewelry and lingerie that I bought and (sometimes) regret it wasn’t those gifts that sparked my mental recall.
I think this must have been in the first 2-3 years of marriage. I was working for an insurance company, doing industrial videos and, frankly, miserable but for the company of the graphic artist with whom I shared an office. In those days, Andrea worked not as a pharmacist but managing the apartment complex where we worked. She was famous for saying she didn’t want a gift or a fancy dinner on Valentine’s Day and then wondering where her gifts were when the day arrived. Drove me bonkers.
Bear in mind, I played the game. I went along with what is, let’s face it, men’s least favorite holiday. I had dinner reservations at a bistro that Andrea loved. I also ordered a bouquet of a dozen red roses . . . all of which costing me more than I could afford in those days. It should have been a loving and sweet gesture . . . until the co-worker in her office got flowers first. In the middle of an editing session at the company my phone rang, Andrea on the other end.
“So . . .my co-worker got a dozen roses!”
“Oh . . . how nice, were they from her boyfriend or husband?”
“Okay . . . ”
“Okay is all you have to say, huh,” was my wife’s response. It had started playful but was quickly turning darker.
“Ummm…was I supposed to say something else? I’m happy for her?”
“No . . . where are my flowers?! Where’s my gift?!”
Now . . . I preface the next part with the fact that I never got away with what follows . . . ever . . . again.
“Yeah . . . my flowers! My gift! Where are they?!”
Now . . . she was just pushing my buttons, I know that, but I was in a foul mood, out of money and had just had a meeting with my foul-tempered, chain-smoking boss.
“Well, I guess I can spoil the surprise and say they are coming. I ordered them a week ago. And by the way . . . it’s not called ‘buy your female companion whatever they want Day’, it’s Valentine’s Day. Where are my flowers?”
“Your flowers?!” She was completely taken aback.
“Yeah…my flowers. Or chocolates. Or whatever! Every year since I’ve known you I’ve gone overboard and bought you a ton of stuff but I don’t remember you getting me anything. Let alone flowers.”
There was silence on the other end of the line until . . .
“I hadn’t ever thought of it that way.”
“Most women don’t. Now you know why guys hate this day.”
“Oh Dave . . . I’m so sorry . . . ”
“I was just giving you a hard time, Andrea. Honest. Still . . . maybe think of that next time you yell at me about your flowers being late.”
We were fine, honestly. I was in a bad mood but apologized. She felt horrible, which was and wasn’t my intention.
But then . . . three hours later, right after lunch, the front desk called me.
“You have something up front.”
“I do?! From who?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t open the card . . . but it looks like flowers.”
I started to chuckle, thinking Andrea had bought me flowers, which I really didn’t want. But when I got the box back to the office and opened it . . . inside was a bouquet of cookies. Amazing cookies, I’ll tell you. Not just because I finally – like Charlie Brown waiting at the mailbox – got a Valentine, but because they really were insanely good. I opened the card and it said:
“Happy Valentine’s Day to my love, I’m sorry . . . so I got you flowers and chocolate!”
I was touched, truly. I called and Andrea was already laughing her nervous laugh.
“I found those and thought it was perfect.”
It was, too, and I told her so . . . but not before she added:
“You better make sure there are some left for me when you get home!”
Can’t change a leopard’s spots all in one day, after all . . . but it was the best Valentine’s Day I’d had. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for me!