Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My Valentine

Okay. If you hate sentimental stuff, or for that matter, if you hate sentiment, stop reading now. If your current relationship or lack thereof leaves you feeling a little bitter about this whole Valentine's Day thing, ditto. I understand. Before I thirty, I think I got maybe two whole valentines in my life (if you don't count that elementary school thing where everybody gets valentines.) And one of them was from my mom. (The other was from Tim Decker. Tim, if you ever happen to read this, thank you. Tim was a physics major and secretary of the Cincinnati Astronomy Club. We were Geeks.)

I just had the most fabulous Valentine's Day. Although this will sound weird, it started when I didn't get to buy Bob a card. Because it turned out he hadn't bought me a card, either. And we both were feeling a little embarrassed about it. But when we both had done it, it was okay. But we did buy each other presents. I bought him a Pancho Sanchez CD with lots of Latin rhythms. I had coasted through the music store, putting on headphones and listening to tracks and abandoning them in disgust, when I found Pancho. Turns out that Bob already has a CD by him, but not this one, and he loves this one.

I recently had a birthday. Okay, it was yesterday. And Bob was upset because my birthday present wouldn't be ready until today. He also got me a little CD player/radio/MP3 player for my office, so I failed to see how it really mattered, but he got spouse points for caring, if you know what I mean. Tonight, he said, we had to go pick it up before dinner. So off we go to...the frame store? I'm thinking, what?

A digression, if you will indulge me. I've had a drink with dinner, so I'm a little tipsy and confessional. Years and years ago I took art history in college and it was one of those courses--okay, three of those courses--that have really stuck with me and illuminated the world in marvelous ways. I learned to love the construction of cathedrals. I learned a kind of basic understanding of Western art. And I fell in love with the paintings of Velasquez. My favorite was the first one I saw flashed on a screen at the front of the auditorium. The Portrait of Juan de Pareja.

Who knows why anyone falls in love? I loved the painting. Years later, I turned a corner in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and there it was. I didn't know that the painting was in New York--I just assumed it was in Italy, where it was painted. Eventually I had to go to the ladies room because it was the one place where there were no paintings on the wall. Otherwise I would have started crying. I didn't expect a painting to affect me that way. I'd heard about people crying at the opera. But it wasn't really me. I'm from Ohio. What I knew about art I'd learned at Ohio University in Art History.

It's not like I've talked about this with Bob, you know? No reason. It just never came up in conversation. Hey Bob, I had this personally moving experience with a piece of art, an oil painting, many years ago. Wanna hear about it? But I've written about it. Bob read it in a short short I wrote called "Makeover" which was published by Infinite Matrix. He went to the frame store and they looked it up and the print wasn't available from their usual supliers, so he found it on the web and took it to them and got it framed. Beautifully. Tonight we went and got it and hung it over the fireplace. I got verklempt.

He had planned on us going out tonight, but I was afraid we had waited too long to get a reservation. My local grocery store sells live lobsters, which they will actually steam for free. Tonight, after we picked up the picture, we stopped off at the grocery, picked up salad and bread and our lobsters. (When I married Bob he used margarine. Now he's the kind of guy who says, Do you think we could have goat cheese on the salad? He likes chevre, which is not something he even suspected existed.) Bob put on Poncho, I admired my painting, and we ate. I think lobster is a dish best eaten in private. Crack a lobster claw and sometimes bits go everywhere. But when it's just me and Bob, who cares? Well, the dogs, who sat next to the table watching us eat lobster and drink Buddha's Cosmos. (Recipe available on request. We got it from our favorite Thai restaurant.)

I think I'm the happiest woman alive.


Blogger Greg van Eekhout said...

And now I'm verklempt.

Sounds like a Very Happy Valentine's Day.

February 15, 2006 12:39 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

That's so sweet, and not sickeningly either. Just sweet. I got a text message from an ex giving me all the love in the world (hello?? aren't we broken up??) and chocolates and Anton Chekhov's "About Love and Other Stories" from someone thoughtful back in the states. I'm used to drama on Valentine's Day, or ruined plans, or anti-climactic moments. So an odd text message and chocolates and stories are like a step up in my topsy-turvy world. Happy Valentines Day!

February 15, 2006 5:14 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Chris, I so sympathize. I HATE drama.

We got two steamed lobsters for $20, by the way. Which is about what it would cost to go to Applebees for dinner. We're thinking up reasons to do it again.

February 15, 2006 8:47 AM  
Blogger J. Erik Lundberg said...

That's very sweet, Maureen. Thanks for sharing it. It's sounds like a wonderful evening.

February 15, 2006 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lovely Valentine's Day. My proverbial hat off to Bob!

I got my annual V-day card from my dad. The one year he forgot I was devastated.

February 15, 2006 4:32 PM  
Blogger claire said...

Oh happy day. That is the way to celebrate.


February 15, 2006 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You talked of the painting in "Civic Virtue" as well.

February 15, 2006 10:48 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Hey Anonymous--I did talk about it in Civic Virtue. Civic Virtue was never published, which means I KNOW you and you're in a writer's workshop!

February 16, 2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger SquidgePa said...


You also emailed it.

February 16, 2006 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Maggie said...

That is one of the most beautiful Valentine's Day stories I've ever heard.

Thanks for sharing.

February 16, 2006 9:30 PM  
Blogger lucette said...

Your V-Day sounds so lovely. Mine was good, too--although we did it the day after, because D didn't get home until 10 pm.
This is Mary, by the way--I found your blog, interestingly, as a link in one of my students' blogs.

February 19, 2006 6:37 PM  

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