My Dad was a true romantic. He was always one for grand gestures. He would routinely reach out to my Mom while she was trying to make dinner, pull her into his arms and tell all six of us giggling children, “Your mother is the most beautiful woman in the world!” He was always the guy who bought the huge Valentine card with the red velvet ribbon, full of words of poetry and schmaltz. He would sometimes sing to my Mother, in an off-key voice, so full of love for his girl that he couldn’t contain it.
And I will never, ever forget the Christmas morning when he really went over the top. They had been together for probably thirty five years by then, weathering times of struggle as my Dad worked full time in the day and attended classes at night. They had raised six children into healthy adulthood. They had scrimped and saved and worked very hard. Now they had come to a place of relative bounty, and Dad had gotten a hefty bonus at work. On Christmas morning, in front of the assembled kids and a couple of spouses, Dad ostentatiously presented Mom with her gift: A full length mink coat, with a pair of diamond earrings in the pocket.
Wow. Right out of a Cary Grant movie, right?
I sort of always wanted that kind of romance for myself. In my secret heart, I guess I always assumed that I would find a man who would kiss me lavishly in front of our children, praising my lips and my hair and my heart of gold, all at once.
But then I grew up. I fell in love with Paul. I fell in love with a quiet, gentle soul who tended to avoid the limelight.
Presenting your true love with a full length fur in front of the assembled family is not exactly avoiding the limelight.
But that isn’t the only thing that differed from my childhood daydreams.
Once I grew up, and became a well educated and professional woman, I found that I preferred to buy my own jewelry and clothing. I was happy to find myself married to a man who gave me practical gifts.
And the years went by. Like my parents, Paul and I have both worked hard. We have raised three children into healthy adulthood. We have lived through graduate school together, we’ve both had night jobs, we found ourselves working two jobs. We have experienced the scrimping and saving and keeping our fingers crossed that the furnace would stay on and the roof wouldn’t leak. We have eaten our share of beans and rice in an effort to cut costs.
We have had many Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries together.
We are not a traditionally “romantic” couple.
And here is what I have learned.
Romance is in the eye of the beholder. My husband, my friend, my love, does not bring me jewels and flowers and perfume. Instead, he brings me tiny gifts that tell me that I hold a place in the forefront of his mind and heart.
Sometimes he stops to buy me asparagus. Sometimes he walks the dogs even though its my turn. And sometimes romance is found simply in what he says.
My husband is one of those “reach out and touch someone” guys. He absolutely loves Facebook for the way that it lets us reconnect with old and dear friends. Paul is the most loyal of friends: he will not forget you even if he hasn’t seen you since you were both walking around without your front teeth.
He recently connected with a group of people who worked together at a local ice cream parlor in the 1970’s. He has been out of his mind with joy at finding them again. He has spent hours exchanging messages and emails with his old buddies.
I will be honest, I had to talk myself into letting go of my frustration the 900th time that he started a sentence with, “My old friend B. was telling me………”. He has met them for lunch, gathered them for group phone chats, helped to organize a reunion cook out. I have tried to grin and bear it.
“Huh”, I have thought to myself. “Where is that romantic guy I was supposed to marry, h’mmm?”
And then I found him.
We were sitting together the other night, talking over his recent visit with his wonderful old friends. And he said, “One of the ice cream parlor women said the same thing that our old High School friends have said to me. They both told me that I’m not the same as I was back then. That I’m so much more open and confident and friendly.”
I laughed and joked, “Well, of course!”, I said with a smile. “You owe it all to me.”
My husband didn’t laugh. He reached out and took my hand. He said, “But its true, honey. You didn’t make me more outgoing. But you always gave me room to grow.”
There you have it, my friends. That is true romance. Recognizing the little things that someone does to help us become our very best selves.
I will treasure that statement for the rest of my life. And I’ll buy my own earrings while I do.