How did you spend your Valentine's Day? Were you awash in red roses? Lingering in bed sipping vintage bubbly? Did you dine at a fine restaurant with tiny portions and crisp cloths? Did you whisper poetic words to your love?
Because I didn't.
I spent Valentine's Day in South Carolina with family. With my little family and with some members of my greater family - Mom, Sister I and her family, and some good family friends.
While Husband and Baby napped (they had been up since 5:30am), Toddler and I made Valentines. We made a list of recipients. For each, Toddler thought long and hard and picked Sponge Bob, Dora, or Spider-Man. And then came the sticker selection. When it came time to make my Valentine, she picked a yellow heart sticker that said "What Ever."
I choose not to read into this too much. Whatever.
When we were finished, she covered her pajamas in purple stickers (her favorite color du jour). Each tiny heart said "Cutie."
After lunch and after a nap for Toddler and Mommy (yay vacay!), the four of us piled into the Ranger (a motorized all-terrain vehicle thingie) and set out on our Hippo Hunt. (There are no hippos in South Carolina? Shhh. Don't tell Toddler.) We zoomed along dirt roads, the wind in our faces, giggling. Baby pointed at everything and babbled some nonsense and some real words. Like "hippo." We spotted hawks and egrets. We marveled at the bright blue of the sky.
Once back, we went for a swim. Toddler donned her tiny blue "Pakini" as well as her water wings and tube. Because we are the portrait of prepared, Baby went in sans swim diaper and Husband and I engaged in a silent and collective prayer that she would postpone the poop. In the pool, we had a great time. We splashed and laughed until our fingers and toes became good and wrinkly.
After bath, I got the girls dressed up. I convinced Toddler that her mary janes were special shiny Valentine's shoes and in she stepped with gusto. In no time, we were convened with everyone. To celebrate. Toddler passed out her Valentines. Toddler, Baby and I gave Husband a heart-covered puppy. We named him Lovey. Husband, Toddler, Baby and gave me a different heart-covered puppy. We named her Valley.
The evening was a flurry of cards and Godivas, candy hearts and stuffed gorillas. Before bed, the girls were scampering about, riding high on sugar and celebration, rescuing rogue pink Pez from the carpet.
It was a good day. A perfect night. A great Valentine's.
But it occurred to me late in the day, not long before turning in, that I spent no time alone with my man on this heralded day of romance. The day, like so many others, entailed the passing of babies back and forth, the trading of responsibilities, the bartering of rest, and conversations through our babies. Like most days, there was little poetry.
And zero pillow talk.
While our girls are usually tucked away in their own rooms at night, on Valentine's Day, away from home, we all slept in the same room. After watching some Olympic skiing side-by-side on the floor of the small library surrounded by family and friends, Husband and I tiptoed into our room, careful not to wake our slumbering girls. In the bathroom, we efficiently went about our face-washing and teeth-brushing business. And then, quietly, we climbed into bed. And sealed the good day with a goodnight. And a quick kiss.
And so I am left wondering if kids kill romance?
I remember our first Valentine's together. Husband and I had just met. He insisted on cooking for me. He had his parents send him their fondue pot. On that night, he took over my kitchen and whipped up cheese fondue and pesto gnocchi. We snuggled between bites and sipped good wine. We talked and talked. We ended the evening with chocolate fondue.
It was a romantic night. Simple, but romantic. That night shines bright in the haze of my motherhood-mottled memory.
And now? Now our world is littered with the trappings of tiny girls: tiny socks and sippy cups. Baby dolls and diapers. Plastic potties and stuffed animals. Responsibilities and worries. Broken sleep and full hearts. And so much love.
A different breed of love. An exquisite species of affection. And shrouded by this love, gripped by its profound power, things are a bit different. Spontaneity has shriveled up. The fairy tales are now read from books.
But now. Now we have little girl giggles and imaginary hippos and heart-covered puppies. Now we have two tiny Valentines. And not just on one Hallmark day in February.
Do you think children kill romance or redefine it? How did you spend your Valentine's Day? Are you a fan of the holiday or do you think it is a bit of a cultural cliche?
**A big congratulations to my friend Elizabeth of Life in Pencil who recently announced that she will welcome her first romance killer baby in August!***