VALENTINE'S DAY in our house is not exactly a red-roses, pink-love-hearts, chocolates-affair. It used to be, of course. About a hundred years ago. In those pre-children days. Well, pre-teen days, at least.
Indeed, when the husband and I were just stepping out together, as they used to say in this part of the world (again, about a hundred years ago), Valentine's Day was like Christmas. Only with a lot more mistletoe.
And I clearly remember being completely spoiled with flowers and oversized cards and tiny, sparkle-filled boxes.
But for a long time now, we've let the day slide. Let's face it, most of the stuff that's sold for February 14th is aimed at women. I know, because there is a tiny local gift shop, that stocks scented candles and fairy lights, throw cushions and pink cooking utensils. I could browse for hours. The husband thinks it's the most useless shop in our village.
I partly blame myself for the emergence of his intensely practical side. There's only so many times a man can hear, "Ah it's gorgeous, but you shouldn't have," before he'll do exactly as you suggest - and get nothing.
Worse than nothing, he'll get something he thinks you need. And whatever about your birthday, or Christmas, Valentine's Day should be about romance. But there's nothing bloody romantic about a shoe rack.
And all because the lady loves...well, no, she doesn't, does she? She just happened to mention - I happened to mention - that I needed it.
That was the second-last Valentine's gift to come into our house. Worse, it came flat-packed.
A muttered-curses, sweat-filled hour later, I'd managed to assemble it, much to the husband's astonishment.
'I would have put that together for you,' he said. I said nothing. I remember his DIY shelves.
So this year, I expect nothing. In fact, I hope for nothing. We exchange cards, much to the amusement of our older two, and the vague embarrassment of The Boy.
Then, as I am turning away, he gives me a gift. It is wrapped in pink tissue paper, and tied with white ribbon. It feels light. I wonder if I can open it now, in front of The Curious Gang.
'Open it,' says the husband. I tear open the paper to reveal a hat. Broad-rimmed, wonderfully shaped, beautifully black. I stare.
'I used to wear something like this years ago,' I say. He nods.
'When I met you. You reminded me of Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, in that hat.'
I try it on. Unbelievably, it fits perfectly.
'You still look like Diane Keaton,' says he. I roll my eyes.
'Like she looks now?'
'Don't be daft.' He looks surprised. 'You still look like she did in Annie Hall. You always will.'
And I thought romance was dead in our house. Someone pass me the damned tissues.
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