It’s coming and there isn’t a thing we can do about it. No, not spring, not tax season, but the dreaded Valentine’s Day. Every year, women around the globe are plagued with the Valentine’s Day “anticipatory anxiety”. Will he remember? Will I get flowers, chocolates, a dinner out, a three-foot wide glossy Hallmark card?
A wise man once said, “expect nothing, and you will never be disappointed”. As a young girl, madly in love with my would-be fiancé, everyday of our courtship felt like Valentine’s Day. The countless cards, poems, dinners out, romantic walks, hour-long phone calls about absolutely nothing, surely this is what real love was all about.
Once married, mortgaged, and a mother, reality set in, and the days of hopeless romance slowly turned into the days of “for the last time, who will take out the garbage and the recycling?” Children coming and going at all hours, car keys lost, gas tanks found on empty, countless trips commuting future scholars to university, future hockey players to arenas, those delusional days of love and romance have become the days of rushing and fatigue.
Why the very thought of putting on a pair of panty hose and a silky dress, not to mention the trip from the warm confines of my home to a cold car, is enough to send this hardened married woman into a tailspin. The thought, the very thought of sitting across a candle-lit table in a fancy restaurant gazing into my beloved’s eyes, knowing full-well what we are both thinking. No, not, “my darling, why don’t we do this more often?” The reality - “when the heck will this be over so we can get home to our beloved flannel pyjamas, remote control, electric blanket and purring cats?”
It’s been a close to a quarter of a century of my “married with children and must tend to Italian parents who don’t drive and speak little English” lifestyle, and I am happy to report that I have let go of the “illusiveness” of true romance. Yes, in the real world, true love and romance happens when I pull into the driveway and the husband has shoveled it down to the asphalt, the garbage and recycling are lined up at the curb, and even the cats have been fed. Following his weekly trip to Farmer’s Pick, the sound of his key in the door means, “fresh panini, Calabrese salami, pickled veggies, and when in season, my favorite - chestnuts”. In my book, Hallmark cannot even begin to capture that kind of love and appreciation. The very fact that this man painstakingly picks out a pineapple, determined that it is “just ripe to perfection”, when he is fatally allergic, is nothing short of heroic.
It is these daily acts of selflessness that create real romance in a relationship. Yes, the glossy Hallmark cards, the Belgian chocolate hearts, the flowers, they too play their part in love and romance, but alas, like a drop in gas prices, short-lived. The real test of love and romance comes after years of the roller coaster ride of courtship, marriage, children, aging parents, careers, and the time, money, and energy expended to maintain a home.
I suppose this old married woman may not be a relationship expert per se, particularly to the Dr. Phil’s out there, however, at the end of the day, when one can look forward to a quiet evening (the young brood out of the house, God willing), a foreign film, a glass of Chianti, a bowl of popcorn, the beloved flannel pj’s, the remote control, the cats purring at the foot of the bed, and the husband straining to see the English subtitles –that my friends, is true love and romance.
So if the husband does not produce a glossy three-foot tall Hallmark card, a big chocolate heart, or a dozen roses on Februrary 14, will I contact a divorce lawyer? I think not. I would be happier to receive a hand-scribbled note, on the back of his grocery list, simply stating, “I remembered the Nutella”. It doesn’t get better than that.