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Past and present: Taking a look at the ‘thens and nows’ of long-term love

By June Mathews

As the middle of February rolls around, I’m reminded of Jimmie’s and my first few months together, back when we were still at that lovey-dovey stage couples go through when they’re beginning to fall in love and are still eager to impress. I didn’t dare let him see me without makeup or with curlers in my hair, and he never dared make rude noises in my presence.

And to prove his commitment to our budding relationship, Jimmie early on bought an extra Birmingham Bulls season ticket so I could join him and his friends on Row C, Section 24, Upper Level, in the coliseum at the BJCC. To show him how much I appreciated the rather expensive gesture, I learned hockey terminology and, as the lone girlfriend in the group, gamely yelled along with the guys.

Unlike most couples, we rarely did the dinner-and-a-movie thing when we were dating. We were too busy witnessing on-ice brawls and hat tricks.

So big spender that he was back then, Jimmie not only gave me multiple cards and a personalized coffee mug our first Valentine’s Day, but a heart-shaped pendant engraved with my initials, too. I don’t remember flowers and candy being part of the package, and they probably weren’t. Both of us have always preferred our flowers planted in the ground rather than in florists’ vases, and we wholeheartedly agree that some of the candy in those gaudy Valentine boxes is downright nasty.

But in those days, much like the pendant, love was shiny and new. Jimmie could have given me a packet of flower seeds and a bag of M&Ms, and I would have thought he was the most marvelous boyfriend in the world. As it was, he gave me some lasting souvenirs of our dating days. Every once in a while, I’ll run across the dishwasher-faded mug or the now-tarnished little pendant and reminisce a while over the fun times and dreams for the future we shared back then.

Thirty-five Valentine’s Days after that first one, life has happened, and love has taken a beating. But as anyone who’s resided in the state of holy matrimony as many years as we have will tell you, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Nowadays, love is a far sight more comfortable and a good bit stronger than it was all those many moons ago. Jimmie has seen me without makeup and with curlers in my hair on numerous occasions, and it apparently hasn’t fazed him enough to make a difference in his feelings for me. I’ve heard him make rude noises more times than I can count, and while I’ve run from the room with my hands clapped over my face plenty of times, I’ve never run away from home – not permanently, at least.

Though he continues to bring me gifts every now and then, I’m happiest when Jimmie brings me coffee in bed, which he’s done every Sunday morning for many years now. If he really wants to ring my bell, he’ll surprise me by mopping the kitchen floor or cleaning toilets. And all I have to do to set his heart afire is bake him a batch of oatmeal cookies with raisins or throw a blanket over him and his recliner when it gets too chilly for comfort in the den.

Whenever I hear the expression “it’s the little things” applied to relationships, I not only realize how true it is, I feel it in my heart.

To those of my young friends who are experiencing new love and think there’s nothing more exciting, you’re right. But wait ‘til you experience the kind of love that’s been around for a while. The excitement factor may not be as high, but it’s definitely got its good points. Hang in there as long as Jimmie and I have, and you’ll see. In the meantime, best wishes to you and the one you love for many Happy Valentine’s Days to come.

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