Growing up and spending my adolescence in Australia meant that as a celebratory day it wasn’t a big deal and it wasn’t marketed or observed in the same way that it is today. Like all teenage girls, with a fascination for teenage boys, I pondered that emotionally loaded question, ‘Who would be my Valentine’ but apart from the occasional blank card, February 14th came and went by uneventfully.
We don’t really celebrate the day.
He is not romantic in the traditional way; mine is a master of the unexpected. Romance for him is about surprise; romance is about romance when least expected. Once upon a time, he left on my bedside table the Penguin classic, First Love by Ivan Turgenev, a short tale of a young man’s awakening to the complex nature of love. When I asked him what made him think of this book, he smiled in his quiet way and told me that he was always thinking of me.
A few words spoken can mean so much more than the grand gesture.
He is Australian, like me, and was not brought up to celebrate love on a given day; over time he has learned that Valentine’s Day is an important date in a woman’s calendar. He plays along happily, he never disappoints, but the truth is that the greatest romantic moments in my life have never occurred on Valentine’s Day. This day of ‘red roses’, ‘love hearts’ and ‘soft-centred chocolates’ has become a day of reflection and gratitude for me. I am both a woman in love and a woman that is loved. To be loved is one of life’s most precious gifts and to be loved by the same man for decades is nothing short of miraculous.
If Valentine’s Day is never anything more for me than a reminder that I am a most fortunate woman then I will forever mark that day and cherish it.
Counting back my Valentines would make a grand old tally of sentimental memorabilia but the sum total of my romance is so much more than flowers, seductive dinners and poetic words. More than the most generous of gifts, it is the sweet stolen looks, the unexpected praise and the personal comfort that comes with familiarity. This morning, unprompted and with no reason, he turned to me and said he found me, remarkable. As Valentine’s gifts go, this trumps all.
Romance; real live butterfly-making-spine-tingling-weak-at-the-knees-tear-blinking romance happens when you least expect it.
And that is where Valentine’s Day can disappoint.
This official day for romance is coming, just after Christmas and a little before Easter; we wait as Christmas tinsel is exchanged for red velvets. It sets an expectation to be spoilt and surprised by our partners. Expectation is an enemy of surprise and never a friend of romance.
Fond memories of our affairs of the heart are about the small intimacies and the revelations stumbled upon along the way. What is discovered and learned together becomes the backbone of our romance and strengthens the bond of love.
Not every day can be Valentine’s Day.
How much more romantic and happier the world would be if we remembered to show the people we love that we are thinking of them more often?
Simple gestures – to show affection, to be forgiving and gentle, to listen, to be generous with praise and to be passionate – are the ways to revel in each other’s company and the way to celebrate love.