Bob Huber: CNJ columnist
A couple of years ago I was in a quandary concerning an appropriate Valentine’s Day gift for my wife Marilyn. Should I buy her a new fly rod or a miter saw? I’ve always been a hopeless romantic.
All our married lives I never let Valentine’s Day slip by without lavishing some amorous keepsake on my lifelong sweetheart. But once in a while I had a problem.
One time I wanted to buy her a new fishing boat. I couldn’t help myself. But a week before the eventful day I stumbled across a better gift — a mounted large mouth bass that sang “Beautiful Dreamer” and flapped its tail.
One year I bought her a battered old World War II Jeep, ideal for quail hunting. “I knew you’d be surprised,” I said.
“You’re so affectionate,” she said, breaking into tears and hugging my neck until I turned blue.
To tell the truth, if it weren’t for guys like me, Valentine’s Day would be just another event imposed on witless snips who can’t resist sales plugs. How droll.
Fact is, I was always so downright courtly on Valentine’s Day that I didn’t mind voicing my love out loud. Of course, I had to paraphrase the expression, because men of my time warp didn’t broadcast their emotions. We left that up to gushy Hollywood actors like Larry, Curly, and Moe.
For years I tried declaring my love for Marilyn, but it always came out like,
“Marilyn, I lu-lu-lu — aw fooey! I just can’t say it.” So instead I’d break into a romantic song, just like in the movies: “Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail…”
I suppose the beginning of my long running Valentine mood took place while we languished in college on the GI Bill. I realized one February that we’d squandered all our spare change on idle fripperies like food and rent, so with my own two hands I built a Valentine gift.
It was a kitchen table that folded away against the wall, which meant we could open the refrigerator door without a major move. We had a small apartment.
I also fixed a gourmet dinner of canned pork and beans topped off with Twinkies and a glass of Ovaltine. When Marilyn came home, I shouted, “Tah, tah!” and swept a hand over the festive table as part of a flamboyant Valentine dance.
The problem was, a wayward toe caught the brace board under the table, and the entire Valentine gift crashed to the floor. “Well, you know I lu-lu-lu — aw fooey! You know what I mean,” I said. “Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail…”
Well, obviously something had to be done. The next year when Marilyn handed me a gift, I said, “What is it?”
“Perfume,” she said.
“I don’t use perfume.”
“I know, and I don’t go fishing either,” she said. “I appreciate the new reel, but let’s switch gifts.”
Right then we established our annual Switcheroo Gift Ritual. We both bought gifts for ourselves, and that way we got what we wanted and everybody loved everyone.
One time I did consider breaking our silly custom in order to buy her a genuine heart-shaped satin pillow. The problem was, I told her ahead of time..
I said, “Suppose I got you a bona fide Valentine’s Day gift this year.”
“I was thinking the same thing,” she said. “How does a packet of wrenches in a heart-shaped tool box appeal to you?”
I shook my head. “How’d you like a red satin pillow in a garden cart?”
“I was hoping for a sweater and skirt outfit,” she said.
“And I’ve been looking at a shotgun,” I said. “Maybe we’d better stick with tradition. You know I lu-lu — aw fooey! You know what I mean. Over hill, over dale…”
Incidentally, the real Saint Valentine was clubbed to death by Romans. His saint’s day was later celebrated in romantic old England coinciding with the moment when randy birds began to notice each other. Wouldn’t you know limeys started this love stuff?
And that fostered the Valentine aphorism, “Loving couples depend on two illusions — a guy wants to be his wife’s first true love, while a woman wants to be her husband’s last romance.”
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.