We did not get along until ten years ago. I had expectations, maybe fairy-land expectations, but an anticipation of something to happen nonetheless. And every year when the fantasy bubble was popped, I was that clown in the corner blowing her bulbous red nose.
Okay, too dramatic. But all I have to say is Valentine's Day? Shmalentine's Day. I didn't get nothin'. Not once as a young woman did a young man declare his infatuation with, his adoration of - not even his might-like-and-hope-to-get-to-know-better feelings for me. Nothin'.
Wait. I lie. I did get a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to my house once when I was 18. But they weren't from some guy; they were from my sister.
Vinca took pity on her little sister that year, knowing I had never once been given flowers for Valentine's Day, or - what hurts more to someone of my tastes - chocolate. Not one lousy truffle. She and Annie, of course, received something every year. I think young men just threw roses at them in the hall as they walked to class, cheering and whistling as they passed and probably laying down their jackets over old bubble gum and spilt soda to protect their lovely feet from the filfth of a high school floor. Sometimes my sisters came home with several romantic gestures stuffed in their backpacks and straining their delicate wrists.
I was attractive, too...in my own way. Sure, I had a large nose, a lazy eye, pimples, wore braces from ninth grade on, and had the constant appearance of pink eye due to contact lenses that, while aiming to make me more attractive, were viciously sucking all the juices from my eyeballs. But, man, I was a looker. Really, dammit!
Well, well. I've forgiven V-Day for its blatant disregard of my ego. I never had much use for the roses and hearts machinations of the day, anyway. Roses are not my favorite flower. They're too...well, full of themselves. Too delicate and prissy. And I've always hated hearts; they're so damn cute. Matthew teases me every year. "You want that key in a heart necklace, don't you?" or, "Oh, look at that heart locket. I'm going to get you that!" Still, he knows if he really did, it'd be the first gift he's given me that I'd take back. But in the spirit of generosity and for the sake of the holiday, I tolerate the heart-shaped chocolates - as long as they're not milk chocolate. Milk chocolate is the only thing worse than heart-shaped jewelry.
So never mind Valentine's Day. V-Day is for everyone, but an anniversary? Now that's for two special people, and it just so happens February 14 is the anniversary of the day My Man announced he wanted to be My Man, my guy for life. Because of the way he proposed, a stroll in a zoo is quite romantic to me. That is where we were ten years ago when he popped the question. We had talked about marriage before I moved down to San Antonio. He had even asked my Dad's permission, so I shouldn't have been surprised when after walking around the San Antonio Zoo for a while, he led me off into a little area with small round tables surrounding a lush pond where a large blue parrot perched, squawking noisily. I gazed around absent-mindedly at the pretty spot and then turned to leave, and I came face to face with Matthew. Smiling up at him, I put my hand on his chest.
"Wow, your heart is really pounding!" I said lightly, completely oblivious. Then I made to go around him. He grabbed my hand and whirled me around. He was kneeling down with a small box in his hand and speaking, but I have really no clue what he said after, "Hillary..."
"No way!" I cried, cutting across his words and trying to bolt, even as he gripped my hand tighter. He pulled me closer to the little pond and continued his declaration of love until I woke up a few seconds later and heard, "Will you marry me?"
"Yes," I said in a shaky voice.
He slipped the ring on my finger, and we kissed and embraced at which point I took the opportunity to examine the diamond over his shoulder.
My diamond. It was lovely. And there's absolutely no doubt that that V-Day caught me up. I even got flowers. And I've been spoiled every year since, including one exceptional year when my love gave me a guitar, leading me out to his car so I could discover the wine-colored instrument.
Matthew has a running joke that he'll no doubt be entertaining us with until we're ninety or beyond. For when we see some sappy commercial, movie, or TV show where a man is proposing, he always says with a twinkle in his eye and a smile just for me, "See, she doesn't try to run away."
Well, he needn't worry. I'll never run away again. Not with these four balls and chains around my feet, also known as children.
Oh, and the beautiful big blue parrot who witnessed it all? Well, Matthew did consider asking him to be best man, but in the end we just went back, took his picture and framed it to hang on the wall of our home. And there it is still - ten years later.