Nekos and I have a long history of romance, but a very short and gloomy history when it comes to romantic holidays. We suck at them. There was the anniversary that Nekos invited a friend over to watch football and the Valentine's that the rose petals I bought for our bed only stained the duvet. All the pressure and the expectation builds—at least in my mind it does—and then inevitably combusts. We've tried both ways of approaching Valentine's and our anniversary—ignoring them (which, in the end, is disappointing and hurtful) and going all out (which, in the end, is also disappointing and, even worse, forced).
For Valentine's Day this year, I put clean sheets on the bed and changed the duvet all by myself; our dogs had been sleeping on our bed while we were on vacation so this was an especially good thing. I vacuumed and dusted our bedroom and lit a candle that smells like suntan lotion.
I made spaghetti sauce, and I tried not to hope for anything.
I tried not be disappointed when Nekos came home from work and his hands were empty of flowers. But as I stirred the sauce and looked up into his brown eyes, I couldn't think of anything to say except, "No flowers for me?"
He shook his head and said, "We said no presents. Key West was our Valentine's."
"Oh," I said and looked away, stirred the sauce some more.
Then he called Tessa into the dining room, and I heard him whisper, "Bring this to mommy, please."
She carried in to me a little brown box and on it was written the name of my favorite shop in Key West. Nekos had overheard me tell the shopkeeper how much I loved this particular pair of jade earrings and bicycled back to get them one afternoon while I was napping at our bed and breakfast. This is vintage Nekos romance. These earrings are far better than any flowers he could have carried home. I may wear them every day for the rest of my life.
Still, over dinner, I picked a little fight about something stupid. Nekos put his fork down quickly and it clanged against his plate and Tessa looked up at us from her highchair, worried.
I poured more wine, apologized and tried to make it right, and we decorated some terrible, lumpy sugar cookies I'd made. Tessa happily made an unbelievable mess, and then put our ears out screaming when we told her it was time to put away the cookie decorations and go to bed. Our little cupid had a sugar high from hell.
Later, we threw all the cookies into the trash and climbed between our clean sheets, the mystery of our bad luck with romantic holidays still unclear. Maybe one day we will figure out the riddle of a simple, genuine Valentine's Day.
Until then, I like my life's every-day romance best. I like the bear hug and soft kiss good-bye in the morning and hello at night. I like the phone call in the day just to see how I am and how Nekos brings my favorite beer home and makes us tacos once a week and keeps me laughing. Always laughing. I simply love him. I always will.