I mentioned Valentine’s Day in passing yesterday… ‘in joking’ actually. Because when I say that we don’t do Valentine’s Day, I mean it. And it has been so all along.
I’ve dredged up a post I wrote 3 years ago about my take on it all. I wrote it for a competition on another blog. (Didn’t win, but I got an ‘honorable mention’ for it!)
The Topic, is of course, Love.
Feb 12, 2007
Well, why wouldn’t it be, with this being the week of the ‘Festival of Overpriced Roses’ and all? I wish I could take credit for that tag, but I picked it from an article by some other cynic in the paper on the weekend. And, at the risk of offending the romantics out there, I like it! It just so happens to click with the way we do (or rather “don’t do”) Valentines Day around here.
I’d been debating whether to attempt a post on the topic of “Love” since reading other entries to Scribbit’s Write Away contest. I’m not prone to waxing lyrical about romance, and keeping it ‘non-mushy’ is fairly critical when I know that my Other Half might be reading my blog. (Hello Mr Unromantic!). But when I read that the judge was a ‘love-cynic’, and then I checked the world times and realised that the earth’s rotation and placement of the international date line gave me a few more hours till the deadline, even though it was already Monday here, I figured fate had sent me a last minute invitation.
I’d already tossed around a few ideas in my head about how I might describe our particular ‘love story’. I was working on dinky titles like “A double canoe, and a bicycle built for two”, because that pretty much describes us. But, now that I’ve mentioned it, the “Festival of the Overpriced Roses”, is a very apt starting point, and a pertinent theme.
As fate would have it, indeed, I happened to be chatting to him yesterday morning, as he tinkered with one of our tandem bikes. Somehow the topic of Valentines Day came up, and I mentioned how he freaked me out when the first February 14 of our relationship loomed way back in 1986.
“You told me you had something you needed to talk to me about, and so of course my heart sank, because I thought, ‘Oh no! He wants to break up! Only 3 months after I finally got over my fear of ruining our friendship with a ‘relationship’!’ “
“And then you said, “I just wanted to let you know that I don’t believe in buying overpriced flowers for a commercial thing like Valentines Day.’ “
“And I said ‘Oh thank God, is that all? I couldn’t care less about ridiculously priced cut flowers that will die in a few days.’ “
“But you did give me a Valentines Day card that year. It had a little van pictured on the front, which you added a VW logo to, so it looked like Mex (the Kombi he had at the time – numberplate MEX-… ) … and it said “Looking for love, Valentine?” And on the inside it said”I deliver”. “ ….
“You don’t remember that do you?”
“Nup…. Geez, how do you remember all that stuff?!” he asked.
I just shook my head and rolled my eyes. Is it a male/female thing? Or just him? It’s not that he has a bad memory per se. He could probably tell you who was playing in the Australian cricket team at that time, and describe any significant run chases, or close clashes. To be fair though, I can’t remember exactly what I gave him, so I suppose I should be careful of double standards! (Probably nothing because he’d just announced he didn’t do Valentines Day, but then he went gave me a damned card! Which I remember well because the romantic within has saved the few things like that he ever did give me. They’re.. um.. somewhere.. stashed away. For our children to find when we’re old or dead, and to exclaim “Oh my god, can you imagine Dad ever writing that to Mum?!” )
Needless to say, it is now 21 years down the track, (nearly 18 of those married) and we have continued our unromantic trend of not supporting the florist industry – in February, or any time of the year. Nor the jewellery, or diamond industries. The first gift he ever bought me was an abseiling harness! I did buy him a watch once, but he lost it when we were rafting one time! We have really always been more interested in buying items (either together, for each other, or for “us”) that enabled us to do stuff together. (The snow-rated sleeping bags that zipped together were a wonderfully romantic idea that backfired because we got too warm.) And we tend to buy them whenever; not necessarily dictated by birthdays and christmas, and definitely not Valentines day. We are a bit rebellious, practical and unsentimental like that.
By the time that “first” Valentines day occurred I had already landcrewed for him in a couple of canoe marathons, and decided that running around looking after him while he got all the ‘glory’ wasn’t as much fun as it looked, and, hey, I’d rather paddle too, thanks very much. So during 1986 we bought a double kayak, and started paddling together in canoe marathons, convincing friends or relatives to drive cars between check points, feed us, massage us, shake their heads at our insanity, and send us on our way.
Somehow our burgeoning relationship survived my very steep learning curve in the art of long distance paddling – with some excruciatingly slow times, and even me once having to withdraw halfway through day 3 of a 5 day marathon. (I got back in and did the last two days.) We got better. Our technique improved and our teamwork improved, and we even became competitive in our class in the (shorter) state marathon series races. I even discovered that I was a bit competitive too! I couldn’t say we never argued, but we certainly formed a close bond with our paddling, and got to the point of having a chuckle at other couples who didn’t seem to have quite the same non-verbal understanding and intuition. And if we were still talking to each other after 500km in a canoe, then perhaps we had something going for us.
We were also doing a lot of other outdoor activities – canyoning, bushwalking, cross country skiing, rafting, and even a bit of bike riding. He probably also doesn’t remember one Feb 14 when we went canyoning overnight, floating on airbeds in a narrow, cave-like canyon, with glowworms twinkling above. Well he probably remembers that, but I doubt he remembers a quick kiss in the dark under those ‘stars’. “Valentines Day, eat your heart out,” I thought. There couldn’t be anything more perfect than sharing this. This was my kind of romance.
Don’t get me wrong. In the early days, there was what you’d call passion. Well, parked cars, and kissing, long telephone conversations, and gazing into each others eyes. He doesn’t remember the gazing bit either, of course! Or so he says.
But I do, and I also remember an article I read many many years later where a woman described her relationship with her husband has having transitioned over the years from ‘starry-eyed’ to ‘steadfast’. (Her story had an impact on me as her experience was similar in that with her husband she discovered the joys of camping, roughing it a bit, and challenging herself.)
It describes perfectly what we have. Well I think it does. Somewhere along the line, you realise that your love has transformed from the stars in the eyes, to something that runs much deeper. Perhaps others are able to maintain the fireworks over many years, but we aren’t in that category. I just simply cannot imagine anyone else that I would want to be with for ‘as long as we both shall live’.
I do recall probably the only other Valentines card we ever bothered with – somewhere in there, in the early days. It went something like ‘For you I would climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest ocean,… collapse exhausted and muddy on your carpet…” Very apt. (Although it’s usually me doing the collapsing.) Maybe they just don’t make Valentines cards like they used to, or maybe we just stopped bothering to look, because really, we don’t need them. I can’t explain why it is so special to me, but actions speak louder than words on cards, and what we do together, as a challenge, forms the glue that binds us, and which seems to work quite well at repairing the sort of surface cracks that are bound to appear in any relationship.
We still own the double kayak, and we’ve had a few paddles in the last ten years but it’s not the easiest pastime to balance with family commitments. It’ll keep.
The latest chapter of our lives involves bicycles. Bicycles built for two, and even a bicycle built for three, as we envelop our three children in our steadfast “passion” and our “love”.
And, so, while noting its occurence this week, we will continue to eschew the Festival of the Overpriced Flowers. He left today for 2 weeks working overseas, but in no way would I expect any delivery of flowers or the like. (I always reckon that if he started giving me flowers, I’d start thinking he had something to hide!)
Me…? I’ll take a tandem over roses or diamonds any day as a declaration of his commitment to me and his commitment to “us”. I don’t think we need any more of them right now (we have 4 at the moment!).. But last week he bought a new cluster – gears that is, not diamonds! – for the tandem that I ride with our eldest daughter. (So we can go up hills easier!) And this week’s special purchases will involve new bike knicks and gloves to make sure everyone in the family has the right gear to ride 500 km (in just over a month’s time) on our bicycles built for two and three.
It’s an interesting experience to read something I wrote three years ago. Essentially my sentiment is still the same, but we’ve been through some rougher territory since, and I’m probably a bit less rapturous, and a bit more realistic.
We’ve since negotiated a crack that was more like a crevass, and, to go with the analogy I started in that post, we had to come up with a better glue compound than the one we were using.
I think it’s working – although some experiences in life will inevitably change the way you view everything. I still don’t get ‘romance’, but I think I get ‘steadfast’.
Here we are another three years down the track. He doesn’t go away on long overseas trips for work anymore. And we’ve done many, many miles together on our tandem.
Hopefully we’re set to do so for another 20 years or more.