Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Today is the one day of the year, so we learn as kids, when we are commercially compelled to acknowledge our affection for someone special. For me, it all started with one of those no-envelope cards kids buy in bulk. I wrote my name on it and left it, when she was hanging up her coat, for the little girl with short, curly blonde hair sitting two rows over and three desks up in Miss Brewer’s second grade class. (“If only, just maybe, she feels the same way about me,” I remember thinking to myself. “ ..Oh. Uh oh. She’s turning, holding my card and now she’s smiling at me. ..Oh, jeez. What do I do now?!”)
Decades later, she still has me asking the same question. “Jeez, what do I do now?” For many more years than I can count on all my fingers and toes, I’ve been married to that girl with the short blonde hair. Not the same one I met in elementary school. Not exactly. It just seems that way, as if we’ve always been together, as if that was the way it was supposed to be from the very beginning. It’s a good feeling and I’m pretty sure that was when, back in Miss Brewer’s second grade class, I fell in love with the girl with the short blonde hair I met in college and married a few years later.
At the risk of offending the jewelry, chocolates, flowers and greeting cards sectors of our economy, I believe gifts of that sort are best make for no particular reason. Valentine’s Day seems contrived. I don’t need a reason to be nice to my wife or to let her know how much I care about her. And so, this year – in addition to maybe going out for a cheap dinner and then watching some TV while we snuggle on our couch, sharing a single bowl of flavorless, but nonetheless healthy popcorn – I’ve decided to give her something less material. Words.
Oh yeah, I can understand how you might take words lightly, whatever their historic importance. (“If he really cared, he’d go to Jared,” some of you are thinking, to which I respond by saying, “And you think I watch too much television?”) Seriously though, who among you hasn’t regretted using the wrong word at the wrong time? If they, these words, weren’t so meaningful, would they be so hard to take back? Of course not. Words are powerful stuff, capable of causing all manner of emotions, of killing moments or making dreams come true. And so, in lieu of gifts which could not possibly do her justice – and which I will wait to surprise her with later, I so value the look in her eyes when I do – I am relying instead upon a beam of light in a fiber optic cable, some electrons and the flashing of diodes to make a point, the essence of which will, hopefully, be less fleeting than the media I’ve chosen.
Despite and throughout the years we have been married, she has never ceased to impress me. For the record, I don’t impress easily and I have a notoriously short span of attention. I once drove within 50 miles of the Grand Canyon, on my way across country, not bothering to stop, knowing full well that I would stand on one of its more scenic edges for only a minute or two before saying to myself, “Nice canyon,” and getting back in my car. My wife, on the other hand, is something else altogether. Decades later, she’s still the first thing I look for when I get up in the morning. Just between you and me, I’d rather just sit there, propped up on my elbows, watching her catch the extra hour of sleep she gets, if it weren’t so creepy and I didn’t have to work.
Recently, I have seen her reprise her role as an active mother to help my daughter, son-in-law and our grandson, now almost five months old. It’s been quite the show. To be more precise, she is today stronger in every respect, smarter, funnier, more interesting and, hard to believe I know, even more beautiful than when we first met – and I gave up forever the ability to remember my name when she’s talking to me. That I could be more in love with her now than I was at the beginning would have seemed impossible back then, as unbelievable as it is wonderful now.
Now I ask you, is there any more material gift that could let her know this? ..Of course not. And so, from the nervous little boy with glasses and dark brown hair that had a mind of its own – My hair, what’s left of it, stopped being brown years ago and I wear contacts now. – two rows over, three desks back, I want her to know, “Jeez, honey,” I’ve stopped to catch my breath. “After all this time, your smile still drives me crazy.”
P.S. Ironically, she never reads my stuff. That’s right. I’m a writer who married his muse who doesn’t read the stories she’s inspired. Maybe it’s better that way. Maybe that’s how the muse-thing works.