I’m a last minute person. Even my children know this. It’s a part of my personality that clashes with my oldest child’s tendency to want to plan things months and weeks in advance, but we have an understanding with each other. For example, if she starts to tell me weeks before her birthday exactly how she wants to make her cake and what we need to buy, I stop her and ask, “How does Mommy operate?”
“Um, one day ahead.”
“Right. So when do you need to tell me all of the things you need for a birthday cake?”
“The day before we need to make it.”
Sometimes this last minute planning works out beautifully for me, but other times it doesn’t. Over time I have learned to adjust and bend here and there. For years Christmas was one thing I planned way ahead of time, finishing up all of our shopping by October, and not because I had the intention of being well-prepared, but because I desired to avoid the holiday traffic and shoppers. This year I ignored my conscience and waited until after Thanksgiving to start shopping, thus I spent more time in stores and driving on congested streets than I have in all previous seasons combined. Consequently, it was also the most miserable Christmas season that I can recall.
Valentine’s Day is one of those odd holidays. (Is it even a holiday?) Unlike Easter, when I’m typically left pillaging through the remainder of unwanted candy and stuffed animals the night before, Valentine’s Day seems to be one of those holidays that coincides beautifully with my tendency to do everything last minute. How hard can it be to find a card and a small pack of Russell Stover’s chocolates the day before Valentine’s Day? There is always so much of it on the store shelves, and even if that runs out, it’s not impossible to find an un-themed box of candy. Perhaps a gift of womanhood is not having to plan for rings and flowers and balloons, or in our case, a new oven. I have a man and three girls to shop for. Cards. Chocolates. DONE!
Last night, when I had to stop by the grocery store for a few items, I stopped by the card aisle to make my selections. The girls were fairly simple. I found a cute card with a little cartoon girl riding a pony for Molly, a funny hologram card for Anne, and a sentimental card about growing into a lovely young lady for Jane. However, when it came time to find a card for my husband, I found the task to be nearly impossible. It isn’t that the cards were all sold out. Most of the slots still had a few cards left in them. It was that I couldn’t find anything that fit quite right to our 30-something stage of life . There were funny and sappy cards for old love, or terribly sentimental cards for new love. There were cards for people who are just entering parenthood, ones celebrating first Valentine’s Days, and plenty of trashy cards for Valentine’s Day flings. What I failed to find were cards that most aptly fit into where my husband and I are in marriage: two busy homeschooling parents/chaffers with older children. We are no longer in the honeymoon phase of parenting, ushering our little bundle of joys in and out of high chairs and car seats. We don’t have our little toddlers around who drive us nuts, but who also go to bed in time for us to enjoy a bowl of popcorn, or ice cream over a movie. We have travelled so far beyond that, and it feels like it has been a lifetime even if realistically it has been going by in a flash.
My husband and I are in the throws of parenthood. More often than not, we are now at the point where we fall asleep in exhaustion by the time the oldest child goes to bed at 10 pm. If we want to enjoy a bowl of popcorn and a movie in secrecy, we would have to either drink a cup of coffee to keep us up a few extra hours at night (we actually do this from time to time), or put a microwave in the garage where the smell and sound wouldn’t waft up the stairs and into little bedrooms, which would inevitably be followed by the sound of feet hitting the ground.
Where were the cards for this stage of life when sentimental poems seem too sappy and silly, and the funny ones seem like lame jokes that aren’t worth the $4.99 price tag? I can offer up more sarcasm and get more laughs than that for free in the kitchen.
As I stood there dodging the other last minute shoppers who happily and quickly made their selections, obviously in a different stage of marriage than I, I started to think that maybe I should just go home and make my own card. I began to wonder who was writing these cards, and how underserved the market was for couples in our stage of marriage, for 30-somethings with older children. I even thought about writing to Hallmark and asking them for a job for next year. I could write some really good cards that would be most fitting for a couple like us, and surely there are other couples out there who would benefit from my half-witted wisdom and sarcasm.
Here are some of my ideas:
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I love you and you sure are great!
Can I go take a shower now?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Roses are red;
Violets are blue.
I hope no one says “poop” over dinner;
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Did you accept my invites on Google for all of the upcoming soccer games?
Just as I was about to give up, I gave myself one more desperate attempt to find the perfect card for my husband. One card I kept coming across was awful looking. From what was sticking out behind the shelf, I could make out the lame artwork of flowers and the beginning of a poetic cliche. I sighed heavily and pulled the card out of its slot on the shelf. Surprisingly, it turned out to be the most perfect card for our stage of marriage:
Simple. Sweet. Right to the point. I put it in the cart.
You may be wondering what else was involved in this Valentine’s Day extravaganza of what seems like little effort compared to what most others do. Obviously, we missed all of the Jared Jewelry commercials and I certainly didn’t have enough money to buy my husband a brand new sports car. And after all, from the sights of Facebook, everyone else’s Valentine’s Day includes expensive jewelry, a dozen roses surprising someone at work, and other lovely gifts that go beyond sweetly pleasing the sweet tooth. We have more in store, but in our classic fashion, it will be simply sweet and shared. Later on tonight we will make our traditional Italian Valentine’s Day dinner that we have been sharing with our girls since they were born. The exciting thing about this stage of parenthood is that I have three girls who are now old enough to help me prepare the meal. We will dim the lights, light some candles, and enjoy dinner and a glass of wine (sparkling grape juice for the girls of course) before indulging in cannoli, which we have twice a year – on our Anniversary and on Valentine’s Day.
As far as gifts, well, those were involved as well, but they came in bits and pieces, and were also typical of being in our late 30’s with three kids and living on a budget. I had to order new running shoes last week, so that was sort of a gift. We also had to have a new stove, and I have to admit that it’s nice to be able to put something in the oven and not have to babysit it for fear that the heating element will automatically switch off. It also looks a lot better in our kitchen than the big, white eyesore that was there before.
In addition to these fine gifts, our compressor went out on our heating and air unit, which we have to have replaced next week. And lastly, we even had a truck-full of mulch delivered and put down in the landscaping yesterday, which I’m sure our neighbors are more grateful for than even us. If you collectively added up all of these gifts, we could have driven to the beach for the week. However, so goes the story of our lives in what seems to be a transitional phase for sentimental love with little time left to waste on bad attempts at Hallmark humor.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of the 30 somethings out there! I suppose we better embrace all of our last minute shopping, rare enjoyment of late night popcorn, and Legos scattered all over the living room floor. If it holds true to what most older couples say, one day we will look back with sweet memories and appreciation for this stage of life. If anything, we will be ever the more grateful for being able to spend a week at the beach instead of buying new appliances and sprucing up the landscaping. And who knows? Maybe we will invite our then grown children to join us. I will have to have someone to help me make that big Italian meal. Nah, perhaps by then we will form a new tradition of hiring someone else to make the meal for just the two of us.