By G. E. Shuman
February is, without a doubt, the month of love. We, (The ‘we’ being used as the most general of terms.) celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, right in the middle of this cold and uncomfortable second month of the new year. It is probably very appropriate and, in general, a good idea to begin a new year with thoughts of love. Hopefully, one of these years, we human types will remember to love each other throughout the remaining 10 months.
Yes, the 14th is pretty darn close to the very middle of a twenty-eight day cycle of life, and of days, of the shortest month of the year. I’ll leave you to figure that cycle of life stuff out for yourself. For me, this month always brings back memories of my many years in department store management. (I know, I’m such a hopeless romantic.) Anyway, I will always remember that last few hours before the store closed on the magical day of February 14th. It was funny, in a way, and a bit frustrating, as seemingly hundreds of husbands in our town tore into the store at the very last minute, on their way home from work, to frantically buy something for ‘the wife’. This, shoring up the notion that I always wanted to tear down, of bone-headed men, grudgingly taking out their wallet to buy something, ANY-THING, again, for ‘the wife’. This, mostly, to keep on ‘the wife’s’ good side. (A side note… and this is the truth. If you are a husband, listen up if you are not a bonehead. If you are a bonehead, this will not help you.) I have always hated that term ‘THE wife’. The word ‘the’, in the place of the word ‘my’ takes all the meaning out of a name for someone who is supposed to be the most important person in your life. Understand? That term is only a hair’s-width away from referring to her as ‘the old ball and chain’. Just sayin’. I do remember all of those frilly red boxes of chocolates and frillier, redder night-gowns that we used to sell. The nighties were known as ‘babydolls’. As a man, it was not hard to figure out who was looking to benefit from those nighties. I think the chocolates were always just a coverup, to distract ‘the wife’ into tolerating that tiny nightie.
My wife, Lorna, never got too excited about nighties or chocolates when we were young. Skimpy nighties didn’t provide much warmth on a mid-February night. She would smile if I brought her choco-lates, but I eventually learned that she preferred jewelry, which also wouldn’t provide much warmth. Here is where I would like to tell you that my dear wife has not changed one bit in the 42 years of our wedded bliss. It’s true. She really hasn’t. She actually still fits in the earrings I bought her in high school.
When I was a child in school, there was probably no more stressful a thing than what your parents called ‘puppy love’, and no more stressful a time than Valentine’s Day. If a boy ‘liked’ a girl in his class, notes were passed, third hand, to the girl’s best friend, to be delivered to her, in deepest secrecy. I actually remember writing one of those “I like you… do you like me?” notes, although, these 50 or so years later, I have no idea who the note was written to. “Write yes or no and send this back to me.” Wow. A man on the way to the electric chair has less stress than a boy opening one of those returned notes. At least your friends didn’t have to know you wrote the note, until the girl’s friends blabbed it all over school, which usually took about five minutes. If you were lucky, your friends wouldn’t find out, and you could rejoice or cry in solitude.
These days I teach junior high and high school English, and I know for sure that ‘puppy love’ is still alive and well. This bit of juvenile courting has changed, but still survives. I don’t think notes are passed anymore, but the message still comes across, loud and clear, with texting and Facebook, I am sure. The stress must still be there, too. Seventh grade boys may not write many notes these days, but they do ‘steal’ iPods and phones. What better way to get a girl’s attention than to put her phone in your backpack or shirt pocket? Her friends will tell her who took her phone, and she just has to come find you, confront you to get it back, and slap your arm, usually with a smile on her face. I know all about those young, lovesick boys’ motivation. Any attention is good attention… the sting of that arm slap is memorable… ‘She actually touched me!’ (Yes, it can be that sappy.) As a teacher, sometimes, it’s also kind of fun to watch.
Valentine’s Day is almost here. Do something special for that someone special in your life. I will get my wife something to celebrate this special day, but it probably won’t be chocolates. I also won’t steal her iPod, and I hope she doesn’t slap me.