Does Your Valentine Need A Bigger Box?

“In a world full of temporary things you are a perpetual feeling.” Sanober Khan

There is a distinctive chill in the air this morning. 

And the wind is howling as if a lone wolf on a deserted prairie.

But damn it all, it’s February 14th, and I’ve totally bought into this rather aggressive protocol about exactly how we value our love. 

Otherwise known as Valentine’s Day. You’ve heard of it? It’s a Hallmark invention that romanticizes a very narrow group of lovey-dovey types, people who don’t lose their shit over minor mishaps or daily frustrations.

They must all live in Hawaii.

My love has stains, patched elbows, and loose seams. But I refuse to give it up. Do you know what I mean? It’s my most beloved possession, regardless of the obvious disrepair. Aberjhani says this is what our love is––a sacred pattern of unbroken unity sewn flawlessly invisible inside all other images, thoughts, smells, and sounds. Like coffee or wine.

I don’t know about you, but the love I know is messy, sometimes confusing, and often doesn’t resemble romantic, gooey, can’t keep my hands off of your kind of love. It’s an aged love, you lay it down in a dark cellar, and it either improves or turns into vinegar. 

Let’s not open up that one just yet, leave it on the shelf, maybe pop it at my funeral.

And by the way, Hallmark can do way better with the required card thing. I’m thinking something more like; Sorry, I left your laundry in the washer for three days, and now you smell moldy, but I love that you never complain. And it comes with a dryer sheet! Or, How many times have I fallen asleep on the couch this week, let me count the days. I would buy a dozen cards if they said something more akin to, Thank you for making the coffee for the last forty years, I think it’s why we’re still married, and you know I like it hot! I’d give Larry the same card year after year because he’d never remember!

The thing is, love gets interrupted by real life. Like when people get sick, shit breaks, or Larry decides to go biking on my fake holiday with the guys, and my sister is working, so she can’t join me for a glass of wine. I get frosty. And it goes downhill from there. 


Okay, truth be told, there’s a back story. There always is, or what would I write about? 

A few nights ago, while we were still in Palm Springs for a recent tandem event, I mentioned to Larry, “honey, look (I hold up the date on my phone), it’s the 12th! This means Valentine’s day is in two days!”

He moans. I’m not kidding.

Loudly and repeatedly, as if he was injured. 

I say, “Wow, not the response I was hoping for.” But just between me and you, I’m a little worried about him!

He laughs and says, “it’s just one more thing I have to do.” 

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? He’s retired. What the hell does he have to do? Pick up a card, flowers, some expensive perfume. I’m so easy. 

I say with a touch of sarcasm, “You’ll be relieved to know I bought a gift for the both of us. So you don’t have to do a thing.”

He looks both relieved and suspicious. So I assure him, “you’ll love it, and so will I.”

This is why I know God loves me. Months ago, I ordered a large matt black table tray for the dining room table from a little shop outside of Alberta, Canada. It was one of those must-have items that Larry would think was unnecessary, excessive, and pricey. So I put it in the little shopping cart for like six months. Talk about restraint. Then one night, on a whim, or I could have been in a mad mood, I bought it! I got the shipping notice this week, so I decided to play it up as Larry’s valentine’s gift! I know, brilliant, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It was actually delivered while we were in Palm Springs, so when we arrived home, Nic had graciously dragged it into the house, and there she was, leaning provocatively against the wall.

I’m like, “there she is!” I think I clapped my hands.

Larry says, “that’s it?”

“It is.” Our linguistic abilities really shine here.

“It’s in the way,” and while I’m standing there with my mouth gaping, he grabs her by the neck and drags her into the office as if she’s a piece of rubbish.

It’s the 13th, the day before the big day, and I admit, I’m overly excited. I’ve been waiting for months for this oversized tray, and who can possibly think badly of me for wanting to open it a day early?

Slipping quietly into the office where Larry is obsessing over what is the right size box to ship our gigantic tandem bike to the next event. He has the measuring tape out. This is a bad sign. He drags me out into the cold garage so we can measure once again the exact length of the bike’s frame without the tires. It hasn’t changed. He’s unfocused and mumbling to himself. 

I’ve seen this behavior before, and it is never good for Cheryl. 

So I suggest that we open our mutual valentine’s gift right now, and then we’ll have a whole extra day to enjoy it. I don’t think he actually heard me.

Robotically, he says, “that’s fine with me,” but I know he’s still thinking about the size of that damn box and how to protect a thing called the coupler. How does a girl compete? I think I could be naked, stripping the tape off the box one piece at a time, and he’d still be mumbling to himself about boxes, bikes, and the cost of shipping.

I ignore his mood and slide the huge piece gently out of the long box. I’m literally swooning because I know what’s inside. Maybe I should put on some music?

He finally notices the package, bends over to get a better look, and says, “what is it?”

“A tray.” I stretch out the words as if I’m introducing him to Marilyn Monroe.

He says, “A five-foot tray? Just what I always wanted.” Rude.

I refrain from mentioning the 65-inch television he gave me for Christmas one year or the tandem bike from last year. Heroic, I know. 

I say, “it’s for the dining room table.” 

He says, “we needed that,” but it sounds more like a question.

I say, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” as if it were a reprimand.

Ever so carefully, I carry the piece to the dining room by myself. Then I painstakingly decorate the thing with flowers and these little twinkle lights. I’m ridiculously pleased with the outcome. Larry is pleased that I am pleased. 

And that’s about as good as it gets. 

We open a bottle of wine to celebrate, walk over to Julie and Nic’s to say hello, and drag them back across the street to show them our shiny new thing. They admire the decorative display, but I think we reminded them that tomorrow is the big day, and who doesn’t get freaked out by that?

Larry and I made pork and rice for dinner. Then I went to bed to read. Larry watched a movie about WWII and some small town in Holland. We snuggled when he came to bed because it was cold. I mean freezing. Real love. 

So today is Valentine’s Day. 

Larry’s at boot camp when I wake up around 6:45 am. I hear the key opening the front door a little after 7:00 am. He brings me a cup of coffee, along with the vase we bought while we were in the desert, filled with fresh flowers he just purchased from the grocery store on his way home.

He says, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and leans in for a kiss.

I say, “Happy Valentine’s Day. Thank you for the lovely flowers. Nice touch.”

We settle in with our coffee, turn on the news, he’s still mumbling about the difficulty of packaging a tandem bike, and I’m still gushing about the adorable table tray. This is love. It counts, it’s a life surrounded by issues, family, frustrations, friends, and all that is happening in the world around us. 

He says, “you want to go for a walk.”

I say, “yes, after another cup of coffee. And can we stop and get an empanada?”

“Sounds good.”

The acidic taste is still in my mouth after the two cups of coffee as we walk a mile to the small cafe just past Campbell Park and order a bacon empanada with hot sauce.

The cafe is crowded, and after splitting our empanadas, we walk two more miles around the park before returning home.

It’s true. I slipped into the dining room to peek at my tray, touch the soft pedals, and couldn’t resist turning on the twinkle lights in the middle of the day. I’m besotted. Then I sent my sister a text. Me and my first valentine are having coffee early tomorrow morning. There will undoubtedly be cream, sugar, and crying. 

There’s a rumor that some sort of perfect love exists, it doesn’t, I think the best we can do is to allow what I call divine love, pure love, to course through us and touch each other. Softly. Profoundly. Imperfectly. 

I’m Living in the Gap, enjoy my tray, how are you doing?


Leave a Comment

    1. Wow, I had no idea Valentine’s Day had such a long and sordid history! We’re all over the board on Valentine celebrations, it’s never the same from year to year. Sometimes it gets extravagant, or we just exchange cards, maybe go for a walk and grab breakfast like this year. Nevertheless, it’s an opportunity to appreciate the ones you love, can’t pass on that one. Happy Valentines Day Pete, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Beautiful, loving, humorous write. A perfect accounting of an acceptable, comfortable long term marriage. Thank you for sharing.


  2. No Valentine’s Day here either we have them every weekend instead 😁. Also what in tarnation is a table tray? What does it do? Do you carry everyone’s dinner on it from the kitchen in one go? Your reader needs to know!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love that Fraggle, you celebrate your love every weekend! Phil must me well behaved! Now about the table tray, it cradles the flowers and twinkle lights perfectly! I can also add holiday decorations when applicable. Which I realize is quite exciting. It can also serve as beer pong table in a pinch or traditional breakfast tray for two! So romantic…happy Valentine’s day, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you E! I’ll mention the UPS idea to Larry and I just hope his head doesn’t explode! He’s discussed this issue with no less than 20 people! He’s obsessed! I’m just enjoying the tray! Happy Valentine’s Day, hugs, C


  3. It’s really unfortunate that Larry couldn’t package the bike in the table tray box. Now that would have been perfect!! But since you point is that these things are rarely perfect, maybe it would have been too cute. Either way, I love the way you two do love! Coffee, a walk and an empanada sounds pretty great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wynne, that is so damn clever, and that would have been absolutely perfect. Wish I would have thought of it, at the very least, I could have used it to defend the tray! It’s funny how every year of life is different and that seems to be reflected in our valentine celebrations! Some years it’s over the top and other years we barely remember to acknowledge the occasion! That’s real love I suppose, ebbing and flowing with life. Happy Valentine’s Day, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Belladonna, you are adorable, you love the way we love! Well, it would be nice for you to observe a quarrel and then see what you think! That’s when the allowances on self expression narrows and the selfishness expands! Oh, the joys of being human and in love! Happy Valentine’s Day, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Just the fact that Larry moaned says a lot about the pressure people feel to forcibly express their love on call! It takes the authenticity out of every expression no matter what you do. We do a lot of parallel play too, I read while he watches a game, I write, while he cooks….we’ve been married forty years, together about 48, and you’re so right, it just keeps getting better! 💕


    1. I told my mom the same thing (several times) and guess what, your mom is right, “it’s a damn fine line.” Oh my, so many years, so many Valentine Days, thank God the good outweigh the bad! We made dinner together, shared some wine, and marveled over the table tray repeatedly, well I marveled over the table tray repeatedly, he just smiled. Love! Happy Valentine’s Day, a little late, hug, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear C, It’s K. I read this beautifully written post about love. Here I sit for the first time in a MONTH at my computer, pecking the keys. It’s strange. Life is strange. But God is good! LOVE IS GOOD! I said goodbye to my little house closer to the lake. I’m a “city girl” now, C. I’m here to be closer to the hospital, Drs.,…even more importantly, so the family is closer and can get to me and I to them faster. It’s not a BIG CITY (170,000ish), but for this small-town girl, it is. Branson is less than an hour away. My dr is 6 minutes away. Finn loves her fenced-in yard and I have more room for family and visitors. It’s a win. I’m SLOWLY getting acclimated and I hope to write after I type this response. I wanted to share my love and gratitude for you. Although I don’t “see” you often, you are in my heart and mind. Thank you for your love and support and for always wrapping me in comfort! I miss you and hope to see you again soon! In the meantime, keep soaking in the love surrounding you. Every bit, every loose seam and patched elbow (I love your words!) Love, Karla, and Finn


    1. Oh my heart be still, it’s K! I’ve missed you and you’ve been forever on my mind. It feels good to imagine you sitting at the computer, pecking at the keys, pulling thoughts for that marvelous mind of yours, and gracing the world with your words. I look forward to your post. Life is strange. And I agree, love is good, especially when bestowed on one another. I’m sorry to hear of your parting with the little house by the lake, changes are never easy, even ones that put you closer to family, hospitals, and doctors. Seems as if this is a good fit for Finn. Take your time acclimating, gathering good memories, knowing where that vase of flowers looks best. I tend to migrate with the light, moving across the house from east to west with the sun. I love the morning light best, the way it slips through the back slider, warming the hardwood floors, begging me to stand barefoot absorbing the warmth with my coffee. This is how I fell in love with you, standing in your warmth, absorbing your kindness, following your words across the continent as if a lost puppy. I miss you too, you know my wishes for you, and my prayers. Love you Karla, xxoo, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My heart is melting reading your words! I was writing as if I have just started for the first time,…AT and T showed up to bury my cable. Then friends from Iowa (TWO different couples stopped by yesterday) through the evening. I smiled. God wanted me to be a greeter and hostess. I’m awaiting a visit from my youngest son, daughter-in-law, and cutest little granddaughter. Maybe words will find me again on Monday. I have felt so lousy and found out my twin is positive for Covid. It’s unlikely I have it,…but MAY have been the one to have it before. I’m postponing my treatment until I feel stronger. My hemoglobin low and my hope is high! I love how you described where “the vase of flowers looks best.” You are such a gift to me and I’m so thankful to God you found this lost puppy in me! And Finn! We’re sending our love and hugs always. Xoxo 💕


  5. Beautiful post Cheryl! I enjoyed every morsel.
    I am not a fan of Hallmark Holidays, and years ago banned over-priced roses and yet another heart-shaped box of too-sweet chocolates. We decided a valentine was fine, and we would go out to dinner if the spirit moved us, because often the restaurants have really nice menus for the day. We hadn’t done it for quite a few years, but decided to this year and tried out a new restaurant. It was really nice, four courses with wine pairings, and the service and food were spot on, so we can add a new restaurant to our possibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dorothy, only you can use the word morsel in this context and it totally works. We reconstructed our Valentine’s Day many years ago, allowing for our own preferences in terms of celebrating our love. Some years it inspires us to dress up and try out a new restaurant, maybe engage in a simple book exchange, or snuggle on the couch and enjoy a movie. We’re not hung up on the normal protocols for this particular day. One year, after a rather poignant fight, I ripped up his valentine card right in front of him and dropped the shreds it at his feet. So dramatic. I eventually let him out of the dog house and we laughed about my little tantrum. Life is complicated, delicious, and so utterly unexpected. I love that you found a place that had four courses with wine pairings and good service! Spectacular! Thanks for digging through the red hearts with me. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a wonderfully funny and poignant tribute to the nature of true love, Cheryl. “My love has stains, patched elbows, and loose seams. But I refuse to give it up.” That’s just beautiful. Your fantasy Hallmark Cards had me in hysterics. (Hint: I’ll bet you could make an easy $million, with a line of those – honestly!) Anyway, I hope your Valentine’s Day, and every day, is loaded with that wonderful tattered but durable love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diana, I’m finally going back to old post to make sure I didn’t miss a comment and I’m finding all sorts of gems! I think launching a book has been time consuming and exhausting. I’m sure you know what I mean. I love the line you pulled out, I suppose, it’s the theme of the post. And now you have me thinking I should be in the card business instead of the book business! If Grow Damn It fails to grow, maybe…hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You two are such a great couple, I’m sure you make him laugh all the time with your witty remarks. I know your posts always make me smile. I don’t believe in perfect love either. Love is messy but if you meet the right person it’s worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awe, thank you Pooja, oh I make him laugh yes, and I make him mad, frustrated, and annoyed too. Relationships are messy like you say but when you meet the right person you’re willing to put up with it all for that “imperfect love.” Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

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