Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Hallmark Holiday

April Cushing is the Adult Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read April's entire column this week in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.
Valentine’s Day has, mercifully, come and gone. Not my finest hour. A veteran of more than a half century of this holiday, I proved it’s still possible to completely miss the point. In case you’re wondering, there is a connection to the Morrill Memorial Library here, however tenuous, which I promise I’ll get to.

To cut to the chase (if, like me, you love idioms, check out I’m Not Hanging Noodles On Your Ears: and Other Intriguing Idioms from Around the World (call #418 Bhalla), I was the victim of a Bad Valentine. After a routine Saturday at the Reference Desk, breaking for a convivial lunch at Conrad’s where my colleagues and I shared funny stories from our previous marriages, I reflected on my blessings: the library printer was fixed, the 1040 instruction booklets had finally arrived, I had successfully put two posts on our new website and gone to the gym. While I haven’t dropped a pound I’m pleased to report I can now pedal four miles without wanting to puke. Life was good.

Arriving home to answer Cupid’s call I found my significant other marinating steak tips and breaking open the Malbec. Two envelopes leaned suggestively against a vase of long-stemmed red roses. I tore open the first one—a cute card from Duffy, our favorite canine companion. (I’d gotten him the same one.) Smiling, I reached for the second envelope.

At the risk of violating copyright law I’ll quote here: “Sometimes I wonder why I put up with you…” A tiny red flag was starting to flutter but I soldiered on.

“…Oh yeah, now I remember, you put up with me!”

Just in case I’d missed something I reread it, silently.

I’ve known this man since our kids were in nursery school together—i.e. a long time. Since we’ve been a couple for several of those years it’s probably safe to say the initial bloom is off the rose. Even so, I was a little taken aback. Make that momentarily speechless.

“Of all the romantic, lovey-dovey cards at CVS you chose this one?” I hated the way I sounded but couldn’t help myself. Whether sappy or sexy, Valentine’s Day is all about schlock, right?

“I thought it was funny,” he replied lamely.

“Which part would that be?” I asked.

Without burdening you with the rest of the exchange, suffice to say the candlelit dinner never came off. I grabbed the leash, the flashlight and the dog, clearly the only resident male capable of picking a proper Valentine.

There’s nothing like a brisk march around the block to put things in perspective. Realizing how unfairly I’d behaved, I tucked my tail between my legs and prepared to apologize. Preferably over those chocolate-covered strawberries I’d seen in the fridge. Only my not-so-funny valentine wasn’t yet in the mood to make up. The fact that the floral arrangement was conspicuously absent was my first hint.

After reading the same paragraph three times in The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (FICTION O’Farrell), I tried again. Expecting to find my loved one pretending to watch some grim show about predators in the wild but feeling terrible, I tiptoed into the TV room. He was cracking up at Steve Carell in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (DVD Forty FEATURE FILM).

Fast forward two days to February 14. We’re at Legal C Bar for dinner with my 86-year-old mother—I know, dumb move. The wait is too long, the music too loud, the lighting too low and I’m praying my pomegranate lemon drop martini arrives soon when I spot a large red envelope. I’ll spare you the details, but it was about as gaudy as they get.

“What utter schmaltz,” my mother declares.

I love every word, especially the handwritten note: “This is what I really meant. I love you, honey.”

When my college-age daughter called later I recited the first card to her, from memory. She started laughing. “It’s true, Mom, he does put up with you.” Gee, thanks.

“And you put up with him. That’s what relationships are all about. Besides, it’s just a stupid card. Think about all the nice things he does for you.” She’s 20, for chrissake (www.urbandictionary.com). Since when did she get so savvy about this stuff?

For further clarification on the subject I invite you to check out Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In by Laurie Puhn, Harvard-trained family law attorney and couples mediator (646.78 PUHN). “Learn how to identify bad verbal habits, short-circuit arguments, prevent overreactions (who, me?) and orchestrate the perfect apology, all in less time than it takes to have another fight.” Where the heck was this a week ago? Her sensible message is Stop Keeping Score and Start Loving More.

I can’t speak for you, but since I skimmed through the book last night I can honestly say we haven’t had a single blow-up. When my beloved told his buddy about our Valentine’s Day debacle his response was, “that’s why you’re so good for each other. You each have a lot of warts but you love each other in spite of them.”

Hallmark sentiments aside, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about?