Kaleidoscope: The Love of My Life

By RENEE WELLS

Love is in the air. People are running all over town looking for the perfect Valentine for their sweetheart.

By the time the paper is in the hands of our readers, Valentine’s Day will be a memory and we will all be pursuing life’s next big event with fervor. But just for today, because as I write this, it is Valentine’s Day, I’m going to get a little soppy.

As a child, I loved Valentine’s Day. I loved making my own special Valentine’s box that would hold the many cards and notes I would receive from my classmates and friends. Some years it was made from a shoe box. Others I used an Oatmeal box, or a cereal box.

Dating myself, I was in grade school when there were no such things as “sucker cards,” or candy Valentines. We merely went to the store, purchased a “book” of Valentines, went home and spent several days punching each card out of the book, and then contemplating which card fit which friend the best.

I was always so careful to purchase a book that talked about friendship more than love, not because I didn’t “love” all the boys in my class, but because I feared having my heart dashed to pieces when they threw my Valentine away with an emphatic, “Well, I don’t love you and no, I won’t be your Valentine,” like only boys from age 6-14 can do so dramatically and effectively.

Of course, I needed the perfect Valentine for my teacher. I loved every teacher I ever had, although none stole my heart quite like Mr. Kubichek, my eighth grade history teacher. I must admit, I always hoped to have a couple  “I Love You,” Valentines, because Pat Petrie and Craig Hesse had my trust. I knew they would not break my heart.  Pat may have been the first boy I kissed, but he fell from my good graces the summer between our second and third grades – when he pushed my new Schwinn 3-speed racer off the end of the City Dock at McCall, into 18 feet of water.

Fortunately, my big brother came to my (and my bike’s) rescue. Kenny dove down and hauled my bike to the surface for me, then proceeded to chase Pat all the way to his house, throwing rocks at him.

I didn’t consider my brother a Valentine or anything like that, but I did love him and he was my hero – for that summer at least.

I remember a few of the very special Valentines that came my way through the years. In high school, I had a boyfriend who was a couple months younger than I was. I struggled with that – it just didn’t seem right, but when he brought me a beautiful third dimensional Valentine, complete with Cupid shooting an arrow through a tissue paper heart and with a schmaltzy verse that made me feel for certain I was the greatest girlfriend in the world – age became insignificant.

My family that next summer, from Burley to Oakley and the distance between us became too big a barrier for love to conquer. After nearly two years, we went our separate ways and my smashed heart bid farewell to my childhood sweetheart.

It was a good thing we each found other interests, because our lives traveled in different directions and mine ended up traveling up the Main Street of Oakley, east seven miles to a small family farm where Claude and Margaret Wells raised their three sons and one daughter.

There, I had found the guy who would completely sweep me off my feet and make my heart do flip-flops for forever – despite the fact that he was not a romantic.

We started dating on New Year’s Day and that first Valentine’s Day, he was in Moscow, attending the University of Idaho, while I was completing my senior year at Oakley High School. I knew he would send me a Valentine, because, after all,  we were in love. He did. It is the only one I ever received from him.

I was not to be outdone! I baked a Red Velvet Cake, frosted it with the special Butter Icing that makes them so delicious, and mailed it to him. When the postal carrier delivered his package at the Fire Station in Moscow, where he stayed, all the guys had a great time guessing what a girlfriend would send a guy for Valentine’s Day that weighed 12 pounds and had grease smudges all over the package.

For years, I had to live down my 12# cake, because his brother was enrolled there in college and got wind of my “Valentine.”

We married before the next Valentine’s Day. By the time it rolled around, I was pregnant with our first child and turned green at the thought of chocolate candy.  And although it was red and white, Cottage Cheese with ketchup just didn’t seem to fit the bill for a Valentine, although it did curb my crazy gestational cravings.

There was no Valentine that year, or the next, or the next, or the next – and I soon came to understand that my guy just wasn’t a syrupy slush. I knew he loved me by the things he did around the house, by the way he would hold me and let me unwind after a long day in a small trailer with a half dozen youngsters.

I can’t recall ever having received anything more than a simple card from him for Valentine’s Day, but I have a traditional Valentine I buy for him. I look for the craziest animated stuffed animal I can find and that is what he gets. One year it was a pink and white leopard, with heart shaped spots that sang “Shout.”  The next one was two apes singing “I got You Babe.” One sang “Love Me Tender;” another sang “Bad Case of Loving You.” This year the only one I found was Minnie Mouse singing “I love You Truly.” It just didn’t fit so…..I walked in our bedroom the other morning and saw them all thrown in a box headed for the dumpster and realized that all the special meaning they held for me really didn’t give him such a boost.

There was one year, about eight years ago that I arrived home from work and found a bouquet of red roses on our table. I looked at the roses, looked at him, looked back to the roses and said, “Okay, what is it you are trying to tell me?” He never bought me roses again. I’m okay with that because this way I have no reason to question his motives.

Although this day is the great day for love, for lovers, for loving…it is just another of the 365-66 days out of the year that I love this guy I treasure. My greatest Valentine is his smile at the end of the day, or the sore toe I get every time he kisses me goodbye – because he always aims for my right big toe (with his foot, not his lips!) It is the razor rash he scratches onto my neck, or the quick puff of air he transfers my way when we kiss. He does so many silly little things that have nothing to do with red roses, hearts, chocolates, candy, or Cupid. He is my Valentine every day all year long.

And it just keeps getting better.  I wish every woman could say that about her guy!

 

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