a dozen red roses from G
On Valentine's Day in eighth grade, I dreamed of Michael J. Fox, and Kirk Cameron. More realistically, I fancied JP, my classmate and biology teacher's son. When I received a single pink carnation with a cryptic note from an anonymous admirer, my heart soared.
Maybe he did like me. Someone at my school did.
At the end of the day, my friends grinned as they told me they sent the flower.
My heart dropped, my dreams dashed.
I longed for a real Valentine.
For the next twenty-plus years, I alternately celebrated the day, wearing pink and hearts, sending cards and cookies to family and friends, or despaired, wearing black as I chomped the chocolates my mom never failed to give me.
A few years ago, I decided to declare the day one of self-love, and I would buy myself a nice gift: a massage, or new MAC lipstick. I would bake special treats and package them up for loved ones. I would snap up grocery store roses after the big day, when they were no longer wanted, and cost only five dollars a slightly wilted bouquet. They were still beautiful to me, brightening the February gloom in my single-girl apartment.
Every year, my best friend S and I would send each other cards, writing "maybe this time next year we'll have boyfriends!" Some years, I would think that I wanted a boyfriend more than anything else. I would make lists of traits said boyfriend should have. I would daydream perfect dates and perfect days.
And though I thought I wanted a relationship more than anything, I didn't. Not really. I approached dating cautiously, trusting my intuition after one or two dates most of the time. I kept my heart protected, and lived in the world of ideals and future perfection.
Several weeks ago G and I were talking about Valentine's Day, and I started to say, "Oh, I don't expect anything for the holiday. It's a commercial holiday, anyway." I stopped before the insincere words spilled out of my mouth. While I didn't expect any particular gift, I did want to acknowledge this day of love, somehow. My first Valentine's Day with a real boyfriend. A simple card, a shared meal, really, I had no expectations for how to celebrate this day with my Valentine, but I knew I wanted to mark the occasion.
I made my plans: I would offer to make anything G wanted for Vday dinner, bake an angel food cake with deep chocolate ganache, buy a bouquet of 14 purple tulips, and make a certificate for a lunch at Cafe Spiaggia when we're in Chicago next month.
purple tulips I gave G
We celebrated the holiday all weekend, swapping flowers on Friday, watching a matinee of Valentine's Day and dining out at Trattoria Stefano on Saturday, and exchanging cards and gifts on Sunday. As we cooked dinner together Sunday evening, we chatted and laughed, settling into the rhythm that suits us best.
My heart melting. My ideal realized. My funny, perfect Valentine.
angel food cake with ganache and hot pink sanding sugar