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Ghosts of Valentine’s Past

February 14, 2016

In case you ever wonder if it’s a good idea to look at your oldest emails from your oldest email account, let me just tell you: it’s not. I went searching for an email that I remembered my now-husband/then-friend-with-a-crush-on-me and stumbled into a whole other world. This is a world of when I was 19 and emotional crisis was my middle name. My students often ask me what I was like when I was their age and I give them an anecdote about my classes at MSU or the dorms and tell them carpe diem. They don’t ever need to know me as a fool, and lord, was I a fool. My emails from 2000 and 2001 are full of poetic deep thoughts, angst, and petty arguments when it came to boys. But the emails from my girlfriends were funny, poignant and supportive–a striking contrast to me now as an old-ish, grown-up lady.

In high school, Valentine’s Day wasn’t something that I remember celebrating with any boyfriends but I do remember bringing treats to school and giving out cards to my close friends and then handing extras to anyone that happened to be walking by. Not that much has changed in that aspect, you may notice. I had a ‘real’ Valentine’s date with my boyfriend my freshman year of college and I felt so adult–he borrowed a car from his brother, we went out to eat and we went to a spa place that now looking back on it, surely had to be closed for hygienic reasons because who ever thought a hot tub rental by the hour was a classy idea?

But then in 2001, it was all different. My sophomore year boyfriend and I were bickering constantly, only to have one of us call the other in tears (usually me) to apologize for whatever it was, only to have the other (usually him) bring up a new point about how we really weren’t compatible since we seemed to be always on the brink of imploding. I had a friend, this guy named Don, who seemed genuinely interested in listening to me ramble on and say things like “I just don’t feel like we are good together, but how can we not be good when I love him {sob, hiccup}…but we listen to the same music and have a deep connection and it’s just so confusing…” in a tone that ranged from sobbing to infuriated. [side note: how Don wanted to be with me after listening to all that insanity, I have no idea. I was really cute back then but cuteness can only go so far when the chick is clearly unstable…but a whole lot of fun.]

valentine 2001

But I didn’t go with Don to The Dollar [RIP, Dollar]. Instead for some crazy reason I had baked dozens and dozens of baked goods for my then-boyfriend’s fraternity. I can’t remember if they were using them for something Greek-ish or why on earth I had filled my apartment kitchen with mediocre baked goods. I had a literal crap ton of cookies and cupcakes and no one to give them to because whatever it was I had them made them for fell through. Luckily for me I had a friend who was always up for a challenge and an adventure and we filled my 1983 Pontiac 6000 [RIP, Bessie] with all the treats and then spent hours driving around campus delivering the goods. We parked illegally, ran through dorms, apartments, houses and campus buildings handing out cookies and cupcakes, all the time laughing hysterically because we were 19 and 20 and having a ball. I remember dropping Fran off at her dorm and then driving back to my apartment and feeling slightly sad that I hadn’t had a John Hughes moment with my boyfriend and listening to a song that had meaning to me then, a song by an esteemed artist named Uncle Kracker.

When I got back to my apartment there was a small rose bush sitting at my door with a card with a note reading “Te Amo. A Veces.” That summed it up perfectly.

Apparently Don forgave me for not hanging out with him that Valentine’s because a year later, we were newly married. We’ve had epic Valentine’s Day dates (fancy dinner! Phantom of the Opera!) and cozy dates–but now it’s a family affair. The kids get special breakfasts or dinners, hearts are made of hand prints and I think the last time we went to the theater was Phantom of the Opera in 2003. There may not be a lot of over the top dates, and our Valentine’s Days seem to blur together, especially when we threw the kids (so many kids) into the mix but we are never short on love. Love is all over the place around here–from the constant snuggles from the baby to the middle of the night hand holding. It’s hard to put into words. Just imagine that feeling you get when you find an extra $20 in your pocket mixed with falling asleep perfectly content in the warmest blanket you have. Bingo. That’s love around here.

But 15 years later, I feel like the Don of 2001 is a ghost–and so is that crazy girl he loved for some odd reason. Everything has changed and changed utterly, to quote William Butler Yeats.

However, he still calls me babe.


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