A Valentine’s Day Disaster

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– Gold Prize Winner (2 of 3) for our Valentine’s “Love” Writing Contest.
– Winners will be announced all week.

By Ann McArthur,
Bend, Oregon

You’d think after more than thirty years of marriage, I would have known better. But my intentions had been so good, so innocent and noble. Before you judge me a complete idiot, though, think back to the worst Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever given. Perhaps our gifts have something in common.

I wanted to communicate to my husband how much I loved him. A few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I hit on the idea of surprising him by shoveling the sidewalk, clearing the snow off our 4-Runner, and scraping all the windows. When he went to work, my husband wouldn’t have to wade through snow or spend time in the biting cold cleaning his vehicle. It would be my gift to him, my secret valentine.

I rose a little earlier each morning and cheerfully went to work. I never said a word to my husband and waited eagerly for him to mention how much he was enjoying my labor of love. But he never made any comment at all. I was puzzled. If somebody had been doing this for me, I would have been thrilled. I would have felt so cared for and loved.

On Valentine’s Day, I finally broke down and asked him if he’d noticed my valentine to him. He said he’d noticed the snow removal and figured that I’d done it, but that was all. He said, “Anybody can do what you did, even some kid who doesn’t even know you as long as you pay him.” I was stunned. And hurt. And then really angry.

As I was attempting to splint my shattered ego, contemplating murder or at least heavy starch in his shorts, it hit me like an avalanche: I was giving my husband something I would have wanted. Not something he wanted. I’d broken rule #1 of gift-giving. You have to figure out what the recipient wants, what would make him happy, what would communicate love to him.

When my husband came home that night, I gave him a completely different valentine, a valentine that communicated love to him in a way that meant something to him. You can use your imagination, but believe me, it had nothing to do with a snow shovel. He got the message.