I think it’s fairly well accepted assumptions that the worst thing a husband can do is NOT get his wife a gift on Valentine’s Day. That particular assumption would be WRONG, and I am here to tell you about that “something even worse”. I am here to tell you that not only did I not have a gift for my wife on Valentine’s Day, I did that aforementioned, “something even worse.” Have you ever heard of the sin of omission and the sin of commission? I managed to pull them both off on one very bad Valentine’s Day.
I think it has to be just about the experience of every guy, who is truly in love with the woman of his dreams, that inevitably, disaster will strike on the worst day of the year that it can happen to him. Yes gentlemen, and ladies, I am talking about the day of the year that most guys, who are truly in love, try and make the most special for the lady with whom they are in love. And though we men may get it right most years, every one of us has a Valentine’s Day disaster that makes them cringe every time New Year’s ends, and the Hallmark Channel starts playing Valentine’s Holiday movies. This is just such a story. Except, that it was not one disaster on the same day, it was two. And out of the two disasters that did happen, one of them was not, my wife having the flu. That’s how bad it was. My wife having the flu on Valentine’s Day did not even make the top two of things that went wrong. So instead of this being the story of my St. Valentine’s Day Disaster, this is the story of my St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. And it was all self-inflicted.
The date February 14, 2007. Valentine’s Day.
We had just moved to Wilmington, NC from Greenville, SC where I had taken a job as Director of Operations for a large kitchen and bathroom cabinet distributor. Kim, my wife, had not yet found employment, so she had planned an elaborate dinner at home for Valentine’s Day. Now let me tell you this much. My wife cannot cook. She will be the first one to tell you this, so I am not doing any wife bashing here. This story is completely about my bashing. So for Kim to prepare an elaborate Valentine’s Day dinner was very special, and a real effort on her part.
A brief history to illustrate my point. 6 years earlier, on the first birthday of mine that I “celebrated” with Kim, I came home to find our dog, Doolie, greeting me at the door, as always, but this time covered in cake batter. Her curly cue tail was its typical wagging machine, and her tongue was hanging out like nothing had happened. Daddy was home and it was time to party. Kim was standing at the door in a red plaid apron with tears in her eyes. After glancing at the disaster, that was our kitchen, cake batter on the dog was not the only place it landed, and being the eloquent lunk that I am, I asked her a probing and unexpected question, “what happened?”
Lower lip trembling and with eyes moistening, and in the understatement of the year, she said “I tried to make you a cake for your birthday and it didn’t work out.”
“Sweet bean,” I stumbled, “How many dishes did you use? Was this going to be an 8 layer cake?”
“No,” Her voice quivered, “I tried 3 times to make a cake and burned all 3 of them. After the second one burned I thought I would play it safe and start making a third cake, you know, just in case. That’s when I started to smell smoke coming from the oven, turned, and knocked over the bowl with the batter in it. Doolie, as always, when there was a chance at a snack, was right next to the bowl as it hit the floor, bounced once, and that’s how she got covered. I knew you would be home soon, sniff, sniff, sniff, and I wanted to get the cake ready, which is why Doolie has not yet been de-battered.”
This was all told to emphasize how much of a cook my wife was not, and how special, and burdensome, it was that she was trying to make a nice dinner for Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, for me, or her, you’ll have to be the judge, it gets worse. She also had the flu.
The flu had been coming on for a couple of days and it was not yet in full debilitating flower, so that morning I told her not to do anything special for Valentine’s Day since she felt so bad. When she got better we would go do something. I even asked her, knowing what the answer was ahead of time, “would you like to just go out?” We never go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. I mean why would you? The crowds are too big, and of course the prices are jacked up 2-3 times the norm because of the “special” menu the chef only prepares for Valentine’s Day. Well I got a big negatory on that suggestion.
So, at the end of the day I bebop on home half expecting to have to cook/grill something, which is cool, because I know I have steaks in the freezer. Pop those bad boys on the grill, a little caramelized onion, baked potato, a little chocolate wine that I found earlier that week, and we’re in business. Little did I suspect I was about to be out of business.
When I got home I found out I didn’t have steaks in the freezer. Those steaks had been thawed and cooked and were on the table set with our wedding china and a special red rose plant that she had bought especially for the table setting. Let me tell you what, Kim had made that table look good, food, place setting and all. She had made Steak Dianne, what looked like fresh asparagus, and strawberry short cake for desert. I was a little upset with Kim for cooking when she felt as bad as she did, but instead of saying so I said, “Yeah boy, looks good, let’s eat!.” Take notice, that was the only thing I did right that night. It goes downhill from here, and fast.
So we sat ourselves down, lights dimmed, candles lit, basking in the glow of our love, but not for long. So, against my better judgement, (remember the cake) I went ahead and took a bite. I went for the asparagus first because I love asparagus. Big time, slap me on the fanny and call me Alice, love asparagus. And this from a guy that usually won’t eat anything that at one point didn’t have a face on it. Well, not only did the asparagus taste bad, it tasted like feet, no worse, it tasted like feet with fungus. I don’t mean to intentionally gross anyone out, but the point needs to be made that what happened next was a reflex and not intentional. I mean what kind of dork spits out food that his wife cooked on Valentine’s Day, despite having the flu, on to their nice wedding china that may have been used maybe 4 times in the last 5 years, unless it was pure reflex? I need to point out that there was something wrong with the asparagus, and that it was not Kim’s fault, though later on I found out that it actually was her fault. (The asparagus turned out to have come out of the can.) It did not just taste bad. It was not just cooked incorrectly. There was something technically, clinically, and morbidly wrong with the asparagus. Anyway, in my mouth it went and out of my mouth it came, splat, right on the plate, and right on top of my Steak Dianne. OOPS!
There are moments in your life when everything just stops. I am reminded of Clement Clark Moore’s poem, “Twas the night before Christmas.” Santa is coming, the narrator has jumped out of bed, he’s looking out the window, and sees St. Nick and his reindeer, flying for crying out loud, in bound, things are happening, it’s getting exciting, and then Moore comes in with the line, “As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky…” I have always felt like that line just stopped everything. I mean think about it, there’s been a serious clatter, sashes have been thrown open, he sees a fat guy wearing a red suit, in a sleigh, not on the ground, but flying, and being pulled by eight flying reindeer, and all of a sudden dry leaves are flying? What’s up with that? In this day and age if something like that happens, particularly in the South, pistols are being pulled, shotguns are being locked and loaded, and serious gunplay is about to take place. Either that or the jug is passed around one more time because that’s some good hooch!! But what Moore does is completely slow down time, and the moment is painted in suspension eagerly waiting the next move.
That’s how I felt at that particular moment. Events were happening, the world was about to crash down, and then right before the dam broke and all hell was about to break loose, time stopped, and dry leaves began flying. I was given time to reflect on the stupid thing that I just did. Whether intentional or not, it was just stupid. And I knew that stupid thing was going to have consequences, and the consequences were going to begin just as soon as time decided to reengage itself. I also knew that there was absolutely nothing I could do about what was coming. I may not have known specifically what was about to happen, but there was one thing I was sure of, it was going to be bad. No amount of artillery can be called in to stave off the storm of remuneration that was about to come my way. No form of conciliatory gesture could protect me from the flood gates that were about to open, and there was nowhere I could run, and no where I could hide, to avoid the world of hurt that was about to come down.
With fresh regurgitation on my plate, and the gods of chronology, having come back from a smoke break, I slowly turned and looked at my wife. And that’s when it happened. The eyes started moistening up. The lower lip started to quiver, remember the cake? I hastily looked towards her hands and then directly at the steak knife that was easily within her reach, and was temporarily relieved that no movement in the direction of the steak knife was detected. Later that evening I would regret that she had not made a move towards the knife and then successfully put me out of my misery, but for now, the hands were still and not moving in the general direction of that knife. Before I could get out, “but honey…” the chair was shoved back, she stood straight up, wiped her mouth like the lady that she is, and stomped out of the dining room, down the hall, into the bedroom, and, what a shock, slammed the door. And then in a twinkling I heard on the floor (apologies to Clement Moore), click, click, click, tap, tap, tap, trot, trot, trot, and the bedroom door opens. Click, click, click, tap, tap, tap, trot, trot, trot, and the bedroom door closes. Instead of reindeer on the roof, the dogs, as soon as Kim had headed down the hallway, jumped up and retreated as well, and unlike my sorry self, were allowed into the bedroom and on to the bedroom carpet. I need to add that the bedroom door was re-slammed with added emphasis that said “Don’t even think about it”. We had two dogs at the time, one half Australian Shepherd and half Great Dane, and the other, the older one, who had experienced the cake batter, was a mix of Rottweiler, Lab, Doberman, and probably some kind of hound. I think they both knew I was damaged goods, and figured the safest place to be was somewhere that was not in my vicinity.
So now I am stuck with a dilemma. It’s every man’s conundrum. I’ve pretty much screwed the pooch, so what do I do now? I’ve blown Valentine’s Day. I know the one thing I don’t do, is turn on the TV. So what do I do? I look down at my plate, at this fabulous meal my wonderful wife has made, and I ate the rest of it, by myself. Candles still a glow, plates reflecting in the candle light, lights still dimmed, and me tucking in to steak and strawberry shortcake, solo. Minus the asparagus of course.
You would think that would be the end of the massacre. But regurgitation was only the beginning. What happened next is more the punch in the gut after the slap/shotgun in the face. Kim finally emerged from the bedroom about 2 hours later. I was reading, no TV for me. I had self-sanctioned. (Of course I cleaned the table and the kitchen. I might be stupid but it’s not intentional. That kitchen was scoured.) The problem was she emerged 2 hours later with my Valentine’s Day present. Nothing fancy, but she knows I like movies, we both do, and she had bought me “The Lord of the Rings” DVD extended edition, by Director Peter Jackson. I’m a big fan. She had calmed down and was actually okay. I tried to explain that it was not her fault. The asparagus had to have something clinically wrong with it, but I only tried that once. Yes, that is correct, once was once too many. (I should have just left it alone. I haven’t taken 9 years to write this story for no good reason.) But this brings us to where I had done something smart only to have it back fire in my face.
This should have been the point where I produced Kim’s well thought out and planned Valentine’s Day present. Turns out, an historic blizzard in the Ohio Valley and New England put the cherry on top of this, just most fabulous of all, Cupid Day. Since Kim was staying at home in those days, and since I had just started my new job, I could not order anything and have it shipped to the house or the office. I wasn’t yet clear on what the office policy was on getting personal mail, and I didn’t want Kim getting the delivery before Valentine’s Day. So what I did was order it the day before, and had it overnighted via FedEx, so that it would arrive on Valentine’s Day. Or at least I thought I did. It was a really nice pair of warm, brown velvet, pajamas. It was a very good present for Kim. However this was not to be my day. The aforementioned blizzard shut down The UPS terminal in Louisville, KY and nothing could get in or out for 2 days. If I had just Fedexed it, like I thought I had, it would have been routed through Memphis and missed the storm, but NOOOOOO! It had to be UPS’d. Not that I have anything against the United Parcel Service, it’s a wonderful company and I am on great terms with our UPS driver. But I had just hurled up Kim’s meticulously planned and executed Valentine’s dinner, and not only had she not killed me instantly or inflicted some sort of painful bodily injury, but she had just presented me with a really nice gift. This was the time when I really needed to produce a nice gift. So what did I have to give to her? I was the classic wordsmith, “Ummm, honey, you’re not going to believe this, but your gift is sitting on the tarmac in Louisville and won’t get here for a few days because of a snow storm. But HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!” This is the point where I longed for the steak knife, and wished Kim had put me out of my misery a couple of hours prior. I just wanted to go somewhere and hide.
But dead people can’t go hide, particularly ones like me who have just been massacred. I never thought that I could do something worse to my wife than not having a gift for her on Valentine’s Day.
To wrap it up, I’m still married 10 years later. And you know what Kim actually did believe me when I told her; her present was hung up by a snow storm. Things went so bad that day, it was actually funny and we still laugh about it. At least I think she laughs about it. She hasn’t stabbed me with a steak knife yet. I think that might be because the pajamas did actually show up a few days later.
Take away lessons:
- When your wife cooks you something, eat it and keep it down, then tell her you loved it with extraordinary enthusiasm.
- Always have your Valentine’s Day present in hand the day BEFORE Valentine’s Day.
- Always have a dog(s) around so that when you royally screw up, I mean the screw ups that are actually your fault, not just the ones your wife says are your fault, they can make your wife feel better while you are banished to some other place she is not.
- If you see a fat guy dressed in red, flying in a sleigh pulled by 8 reindeer, don’t shoot, just pass the jug.