For a bevvy of reasons we’ve never really celebrated Valentine’s Day. And for the most part I never noticed the difference. Frankly, it all seemed a bit silly to me. In my cocky childless days I could be heard saying things like, “Never trust a man who gives you flowers on Valentine’s Day,” or “Anyone who buys you sexy underwear on Valentine’s Day is hiding something. He’s probably wearing it himself when you’re not around.” If they weren’t hiding some dark secret, I assumed people who celebrated Valentine’s Day did so because for 364 days of the year their poor, sad lives were devoid of romance. Now I know better. All those people celebrating. They were just parents. Parents desperate for a moment alone.
What I wouldn’t give now for dinner alone and a box of cheap confection. With five kids under ten running interference, moments alone are like unicorns. I’ve heard of them, I kind of believe in them, but I’ve never really seen one for myself so I can’t be sure. To wit, we can be standing in the kitchen, deep in the beginnings of a real conversation and someone races in, plants himself right in between us and starts talking. Do they not hear us talking? Does it looks like we’re each talking to ourselves, but just facing each other? I will never fully understand. But lately I’ve taken to calling M in the middle of the day to talk to him about all the things we can’t talk about at night. [Once the kids are in bed my brain has already been in power-down mode for a good hour or so and the most debate I can muster is usually whether I should use a sandwich bag or its tiny, useless cousin, the snack bag, when packing lunches.] I know he’s in the middle of doing a few things when I call with a long list of topics, and truth be told I rarely give him any notice that I’m about to launch into some serious items: vacation planning, whatever current behavior problems the kids are having, or when he’s going to cave and let me move us all to France. You know, middle-of-the-day conversation.
“Um,” he says. “I’m actually in a meeting right now.”
“Really?” I reply. “Can’t you just multitask, like I do?” I know this kills him because my version of multitasking usually involves writing a brief with a toddler underfoot, while simultaneously surfing the web for dinner ideas, all while fielding phone calls from school because some has a fever above 99 degrees and someone else has been caught yoyo-ing in class. Again.
A circus, maybe, but there is never someone else involved, waiting for me to make intelligent conversation.
“No, not right now. Can we talk about this tonight?” he says.
“Sure. I’ll make sure to save a few brain cells for you later on today. Once I’ve put the kids down and negotiated the European debt crisis, we can talk about our schedules for the week, the yo-yo problem, and what we’re doing this summer.” He gets the point and calls me later in the day. Inevitably I’m doing five other things when he calls, but I don’t tell him. I just suffer in silence. I’m good like that.
But now I want Valentine’s Day. I want to go out for dinner and get chocolates. I want time alone and a chance to wear lip gloss — you know, a parent-teacher conference without the teacher. For some reason, we can surmount all sorts of scheduling obstacles and show up at school for all the millions of things we need to go in for, but dinner is a challenge. Still, isn’t a date just a parent-teacher conference without the teacher? We sit at a table, albeit in slightly larger chairs then we do when we go to school, and [despite our best efforts] we talk about the kids. Oh, and there’s some food involved that I did not have to prepare, and will not have to remove from the floor, walls, or the underside of the table top [where Bennett stores food he refuses to eat]. Hell, if I need to I’ll invite the teachers along.
Alas, this year it is not meant to be. We will have to postpone the launching of our Valentine’s Day celebrations until next year. M left for a business trip last night. And before you say anything, I am well aware that men who travel on Valentine’s Day are usually visiting their mistresses. And to that I say, God bless him: I barely have the energy to brush my teeth, if he’s taken a mistress, more power to him.
There was one, small romantic gesture before he left. I’ve been sniffly and achy, and all sorts of nasty germs are floating through our house at the moment.
“I left some penicillin on your nightstand,” he said, as he was leaving. “You know, in case you need it.”
And who said romance is dead? Certainly not me. Happy Valentine’s Day M, wherever you are.