Holiday of love, or of dread?

When I was a kid, Valentine’s Day was a holiday to look forward to. It was a treat to wake up on Valentine’s Day to see what surprises were left for us at our place on the kitchen table. While most mornings were littered with pleas from us to wait “5 more minutes” before we got up, Valentine’s Day was treated much like Christmas – we were up before the sun. At the table there would be three places set with a little chocolate box, some candy hearts, a Valentine’s Day card, a Pez dispenser, and a new pair of Valentine’s Day socks. Sometimes there would be a little trinket, like a heart shaped glass bead on a chain or a little box with some gold coins on it. But always, there was the surprise of small treats that meant the world for us. After a breakfast of heart-shaped pancakes, we would grab our bag of homemade valentines for our classmates, excited for a day when we received at least 30 new valentines. At the end of the day our bellies would be full of candy and cookies, and our teeth coated with the sugar of little confectioner’s hearts that had messages of “Be mine” and “XOXO”. Then we would read through every single valentine to see if there was some hidden message between the lines of Garfield proclaiming his love for lasagna on a folded piece of pink paper that the cutest boy sent out to every girl in the class.

As adults, Valentine’s Day gets much harder. When I was single, it was the most dreaded of all holidays. It reminded me that I was alone with no one to love me and get me small little trinkets or take me out to dinner. There was no one buying me a dozen overpriced roses or declaring their love for me with those three little words. The holiday of love felt more like a holiday of cruelty as couples walked hand in hand around me, and I was surrounded by the colors of red and pink.

Being that this is my second Valentine’s Day with Mr. Wonderful, I understand now that the holiday of love is no easier as part of a couple, either.

Last Valentine’s Day, we had only been going out for 3 months. We were still wrapped up in the newness of our relationship, proclaiming our newfound love to each other in little ways every day. Coffee in bed. Flowers for the kitchen table for no reason except that we were in love. Little post-its left at each other’s desks or in our inboxes to secretly let the other know we were thinking of them. We only had eyes for each other in those early days, blind to the world around us as we reveled in these new feelings of adoration. So Valentine’s Day was all too exciting as it approached. But as it got closer, it got a little nerve wracking. Being that our relationship was so new, we made a pact that neither of us would go overboard on the other. These limits made things easier on my pocketbook, but even harder as I wracked my brain for something I could get him that let him know just how much he meant to me. What do you get the man that means everything to you without going over $20?

On a whim, days before V Day was to arrive, I found myself in Rite Aid looking for little trinkets for my kids to place at the kitchen table just like my mother had done for me and my sisters. Rite Aid is a great time suck. They have aisles upon aisles of stuff you need, like shampoo and make-up and medicine for every single symptom of the common cold. But they also have aisles dedicated to junk that looks awfully inviting when it is placed on shelves under fluorescent lighting.

That’s right folks. I found cheap gifts of love at a drugstore.

I was intrigued by the little aromatherapy sets – a metal stand that held scented oil that gave off aromas of vanilla or flowers when warmed by a tealight candle. And I found him some designer soap with flecks of seaweed in it and matching scented lotion. I wrapped it all up in a small pink gift bag with red tissue paper and enclosed a card that said perfectly every thing I was feeling for him.

Valentine’s Day came, and I anticipated the moment when he would open his present and be amazed at how well I knew him. He presented me with my gift, a necklace that matched the blue dress I had worn when we went out for New Years Eve. It was full of thought and care. And it made me realize how lame my gift to him was. I mean, seriously. I had bought him an aromatherapy set. And I had bought him soap and lotion.

I had bought him a chick’s gift.

He opened the gift and was so gracious at what he found. He immediately used some of the lotion, which actually smelled delicious. And he raved about the aromatherapy set. He read the words I had written to him, and gave me a sweet kiss of thanks. We set up the candle and poured the oil into the little metal basin. And the aroma that it gave off was reminiscent of the islands in paradise.

If the islands were to smell like melting wax.

Ugh, it was awful! I promised him that I would buy him some more oil to replace the awful cheap drugstore oil. But I never did. I was already shamed enough by the cheap gift that I conveniently forgot all about it. Luckily, the lotion and the soap were wonderful, and I used them every time I came over. I’m not really sure if he ever did get any use out of them. But I enjoyed them.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and I find myself in the same boat as last year. What the heck do you get the most wonderful guy in the world to let him know how much you love him without breaking the bank? It makes me miss the simplicity of the holiday when I was single, only having to buy Pez dispensers and conversation hearts while naïvely mourning my singleness. Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to say that having singleness thrust in my face through a set of heart shaped binoculars was better than being in a relationship around the holiday of love. But at least I didn’t have to buy a gift.

The fact of the matter is, in a caring relationship, gifts of love are given every day. They are in the “bless you” when the other sneezes. They are in a simple cup of coffee on a rushed lunch break. They are in the dinner prepared for the other on a night in, or in the dishes being washed since the other cooked. They are in the way one sneaks out of the bedroom in the morning so the other can sleep in on a lazy Sunday. They are in the bagel and lox bought for breakfast because he knows that’s my favorite breakfast. They are in the mundane task of folding clothes fresh out of the dryer to make his life a little easier as I camp out at his house all weekend long. They are in the neck and shoulder squeezes after a long day doing yardwork. They are in the suffering of the cold air outside as we entertain each other’s kids with an impromptu game of football. They are in the silent mouths and open ears as we listen to each other pour out the troubles of our hearts, and in the hug that follows in comfort that everything is going to be ok.

With that said, however, I’m still left with the dilemma of how to show him just how much I care though some sort of trinket in a wrapped box complete with a card. But I do know that I will be passing up the drugstore this year.

What is your take on Valentine’s Day?
What will you present your love with on Valentine’s Day?
And is there a perfect gift to get a guy for V Day? (keep it clean…)

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6 thoughts on “Holiday of love, or of dread?”

  1. Coming home to a neatly folded pile of clean laundry was such a simple but wonderful gesture. To
    make it easy for you. A box of sees dark chocolates with nuts no soft centers-even though I know you like them, would suit me just fine. I’m sure I could thinks of several gifts that would bring a smile to
    my face. But I’ll let you come up with something creative as long as it doesn’t include bath products :). I love you!!!

  2. I’m giving my husband the perfect gift: He doesn’t have to buy me anything. No flowers, no cards, no candy (unless he really, really wants to give me candy). He stresses so much over gift shopping that I thought I’d give him something he’d really love… the freedom of not having to buy anything. Of course, that means I don’t have to buy anything either. It’s a win-win.

  3. So, I’m really beginning to get cross with your blog. Every time I’m on a roll, saying something really profound, something that will effect future generations and change the way people around the world interact…your page reloads. (On the off chance that it MIGHT be my computer, I adjusted my own tab settings…so we shall see….)

    Anyway, the general gist of my comment was that, while presents are fine and good, and chocolate is undeniably delicious, what I really remember from coupled-up Valentine’s days past is the stuff we did, not the stuff I got. So instead of stressing over a cliched gift, plan a secret midnight picnic, or get dressed to the nines and spend an afternoon walking hand-in-hand through your favorite small town, window-shopping and having one milkshake with two straws for lunch. Go to a restaurant you have both always wanted to try, sit in a coffee shop and people-watch for hours while sipping mochas and writing a poem together. Hike to a secluded spot in the woods to enjoy the beauty of nature. Because spending time together is really what Valentine’s day is about…well, spending time together and a dead saint.

  4. Yeah…I changed my settings and was still having the problem. The world is missing out on words of wisdom that will change the very fabric of existence for our generation and generations to come, as as alas, the legendary prose are capriciously erased from space/time by your impish web site.

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