Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

I have this theory.

Valentine's Day is just like fairy tales and the notion of happily ever after.  They fall into the category of things that are only seem attainable for people who've never had their heart broken.

Love and affection and the idea that you are the most important person in the world to someone else, all that, only rings true for the lucky ones who haven't learned the hard way yet.

Who haven't had the rug pulled out from under them.

I used to believe in those things, back when I was naive and delusional.

Now, though, I'm a realist.  Love doesn't always last forever.  People lie.  People leave.  And sometimes you don't even know they are gone.

I asked for input from my readers yesterday on their best or worst Valentine's Day ever.  Not surprisingly, the only responses thus far have been the bad ones.  I predicted that would happen, though.

Maybe it's because there is no way that any one day could ever live up to the hype, nothing could ever meet all the expectations, no one moment could ever be what it's advertised to be.  That's the problem with the mass marketing and commercialization of holidays like this one.  You shouldn't need to get flowers and chocolate to know you are loved.  You don't need overpriced meals and lingerie to be honest and true.

It's all a sham.

Real love doesn't eat chocolate or smell roses.  Real love is more than that.  Real love is what keeps you looking at him or her in a different way than you look at the rest of the world.  Real love is what keeps you up at night when they are gone.  Real love puts a little piece of them in your heart, and you carry that wherever you go.  Real love doesn't just stop because something else comes along.

Once upon a time, I believed in real love.

This is that story.

In February, 1998, I was a senior in college.  We were wrapping up school, planning a wedding and trying to decide where we would set up roots once we were married.   We were 121 miles away from each other in a pre-cell phone world.  I was going to school and working and volunteering and applying to law schools and worrying about guest lists.  Sometimes all at once.

A few days before Valentine's weekend, we'd talked on the phone and decided that I'd drive to San Diego so we could be together.  He didn't tell me what we were doing, he just told me that he had plans.

I can honestly say that night was one of the last times I've felt those butterflies as I was getting ready.

We drove to downtown and parked.  He grabbed my hand and guided me on what seemed like the longest walk I'd ever taken, though that may just have been because of the heels I was wearing.

We finally turned a corner, and he said were were here.
The restaurant we went to that night
The green awning gave it away.  The little Italian restaurant we'd driven past only about a million times, but never gone into.  The one with the menu on the easel outside and the candlelight and the small romantic tables.  The one I'd mentioned wanting to someday go to only once and he remembered.

We were here.

It was at that moment that I really started to feel like a grown up.

I'd just turned 21, he ordered me a glass of wine, and I sat across the table from the man I was about to marry.

It was, in a word, amazing.

The kind of dinner that little girls dream of being taken out to someday.

Little did I know that the night wasn't over.  We walked out of the restaurant, and I figured we could stroll around downtown for a little while.  Peek into the windows of the shops.  He glanced at his watch and said we had to go.

More walking, although this time it gradually turned faster and faster until we were practically running down the sidewalks.  I asked where we were going, he just kept telling me that we were almost there.

Then we were.

A horse drawn carriage was waiting for us.  For just a moment, I felt like a princess.  Tears of shock and happiness, of realizing just how amazing it was that he'd gone to all this trouble, of knowing in my heart that we were meant to be together, began to fall.

We climbed up into the carriage.

He laughed and smiled and told me not to cry.  He knew he'd done well.  Then he opened his coat and took something out.  It was red and folded just so.  It was a card, that he'd actually made himself.   The only card that he ever made for me.

He apologized for it, looked a little unsure about giving it to me. Seemed to regret his decision to make it instead of just buying one like he'd always done before.

I told him it was beautiful.  And it was.

It all was.

Maybe fairy tales do come true sometimes after all.

I just have to hope that they can come true more than once.

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