I hope you got through Valentine’s Day weekend without too much strain on your emotional or financial well-being.

What’s supposed to be a sweet and sentimental holiday has morphed into a billion-dollar business, but isn’t that the American way? We take a good thing and blow it out of proportion to the point it’s almost impossible to measure up to standards, especially when diamond jewelry is involved.

Figures from the National Retail Federation suggested the average American spent about $200 on Valentine’s Day purchases. All that is good for the economy, and as one Fredericksburg Police Department officer noted as he handed out goodies to senior citizens last week, who doesn’t like flowers and chocolates?

My sweetie was thoughtful enough to provide those, but we didn’t dare try to go out to dinner on the special night. Instead, I picked up a to-go order from Olive Garden, using a gift card a dear friend gave us for Christmas. We enjoyed pasta, salad and breadsticks for two nights.

We didn’t have to cook or fight the crowds, and the meal was free. Talk about a win–win–win.

As I looked at my heart-shaped tin of chocolates, my mind went in all sorts of directions, beyond wondering if the caramels were shaped like rectangles or squares. I know Valentine’s Day is all about romantic love, but we all know romance changes as the years pass.

Real love goes beyond that initial reaction, that moment when you lock eyes across the room. If the tale’s being told on the Hallmark Channel—yes, I’m still hooked—the film concludes with a G-rated kiss. In any other movie, the couple heads for the bedroom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as time passes, your back starts hurting or your knees ache, and that part of the relationship may become a little less robust.

Romance novels and Hallmark movies tend to leave out that part. And who can blame them? It’s much more appealing to see love at first sight between people with Hollywood good looks than it is to watch a couple, together for decades, as she plucks the wiry hairs growing out of his ear lobes or he lifts up her shirt to put a pain patch on her sore lower back.

Moments of a real romance are when she makes him a special dish he enjoys, and he thanks her for everything she cooks, no matter how it tastes. It’s being each other’s cheerleader, sounding board and occasional scapegoat, through good and bad news.

It’s the way you revel in the accomplishments of children and grandchildren—and watching how quickly they grow before your eyes. It’s also sharing the painful realization that things can happen to those loved ones, beyond your control, and all you can do at times is watch and pray for the best.

It’s enjoying being together, whether that entails riding bikes or taking a hike, enjoying dinner out or a picnic in the parking lot when the rotisserie chicken smells so good, he gets out his pocket knife and slices off a few pieces, and you use the bread you just bought to make sandwiches for two.

It’s a million moments that are happy and sad, pleasing and infuriating, inspiring and boring, memorable and downright unremarkable. It’s enjoying a beautiful sunset from the deck of a beach house or sitting in the front-porch rocking chairs, watching the traffic.

Real love is real life, and that’s something to celebrate every day of the year.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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