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Unromantic gifts can sometimes – but not always – be best for Valentine’s Day

By June Mathews

Jimmie and I have never been the most romantic couple in the world, and I suppose a precedent was set by the inauspicious way we officially got engaged. We were sitting in his 1974 Javelin in the parking lot at Eastwood Mall, where we had just bought the ring I’d picked out a few weeks before (I didn’t dare let him choose a ring I’d likely be wearing the rest of my life on his own. Does that make me a control freak? Hmmm…). Within sight were a number of cars filled with youngsters cruising the mall, as many of us did back in the day, and a dumpster overflowing with broken-down boxes and packing material.

“Here you go,” he said, handing me the jewelry store shopping bag. To his credit, once I pulled the ring box out of the bag and opened it, Jimmie took the ring and slipped it on my finger. But that was about as traditionally romantic as it got. 

Nearly 35 years after the fact, I still wonder if I shouldn’t have insisted on a more romantic setting and presentation before agreeing to marry him. Lately I’ve been hearing about – and seeing on Facebook – the lengths some hopeful grooms-to-be go to in making major productions of their proposals. But then as now, I could do without the frills. With few exceptions, my tastes lean toward practical and plain, and that goes for Valentine’s Day gifts, too.

For example, Jimmie knows I prefer to receive plants I can keep and watch grow over cut flowers any day. The delicate fronds of an asparagus fern and the velvety blooms of an African violet are gifts that keep giving year-round. And while roses are one of my favorite flowers, I’d rather have the garden center variety than those delivered by the florist.

Those fancy heart-shaped boxes of candy are fine, but they usually end up in the trash after a week or so with at least half of the mystery chocolates still clinging to their little paper candy cups. On the other hand, I can assure you that every peanut M&M in one of those giant economy-size bags will be eaten and thoroughly enjoyed if I have anything to do with it.

As for Valentine cards, the best one I ever got was a love note Jimmie wrote on a yellow legal pad three or four years into our marriage. Even Hallmark, which has some awfully nice cards, can’t compete with that.

But tangible gifts aside, if you’re a fellow fan of Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages,” you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say my primary love language is acts of service. That means I see how much Jimmie cares through the things he does to cater to my inner princess. In other words, if he ever fails to bring me coffee in bed one Sunday, I’ll be convinced we’re headed for divorce court.

So if all it takes is Jimmie bringing me a simple cup of coffee to light my fire, then you can imagine how I felt last week when he added storage and surface space to the work bench he built me last year. I nearly swooned when he called me down to the basement to see it. To me, it was the best early Valentine’s gift a girl could ever want.

But guys, if I were you, I’d think long and hard before running down to your local improvement store to purchase lumber for crafting your sweetie a similar Valentine’s gift. That is, unless you’re sure she’ll appreciate something like that as much as I do. Short of more suitable ideas, the standard flowers, candy and a card would probably be safer bets.

Whatever you do, though, don’t forget about your beloved on Valentine’s Day. Otherwise, you’ll be buying that lumber, all right – to build yourself a doghouse.

Email June Mathews at jmathews120@charter.net.

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