Today is Valentine’s Day. How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you? Do you want to? This is such a tension-filled day for so many people.
I’m a cheap date. Some popcorn and a great story on a big screen and I’m thrilled. I don’t think of myself as high maintenance, I’m sure I have my moments, but generally I don’t long for expensive gifts, or dinners that require reservations (of any kind, let alone months in advance), trips, etc.
My husband has a romantic heart, but Valentine’s Day creeps up too closely on the heels of Christmas, is amidst the flurry of summer sports registrations and my husband’s birthday in late February. We have 3 kids, and why on earth they make you pay for summer camp and baseball registration in February and early March escapes me – but there it is. We never have any money to spend on a big night out. My husband proposed to me 15 years ago today, hard to top that, right?
When we first married, we were struggling to finish school, living off student loans and a part-time paycheck from Black’s Photography. Then we had 3 kids in 3 years, were trying to pay off those students loans and live off one income. Grocery shopping was (and still is some months) done with a calculator in hand because the budget was that tight.
One year was especially bad. Our clothes dryer had died, and I’d been hanging loads of laundry up to dry in our apartment for about 4 months by the time Valentine’s rolled around because it wasn’t fixable and I couldn’t afford to replace it. I refused to drag 3 kids on the bus to a laundromat for hours and pay to dry my clothes when I could hang them up for free.
Our van had died and we couldn’t afford to fix it or replace it, so we went without a vehicle. We packed everyone up (our kids were 3,5 and 6 at the time) and pulled a wagon to the grocery store every week just to feed ourselves. I felt so guilty loading my kids’ backpacks with bread and buns for them to carry – but desperate times call for desperate measures. That and when we left the bread in the wagon it resembled a pancake more than a loaf by the time we got home.
We had no money for anything extra. You learn real quick what’s important in times like that. I couldn’t find a job that would pay enough to make it financially feasible for me to work and pay for daycare, and living on one income with our staggering student loans was tough. So, you can visualize maybe what our Valentine’s Day celebrations looked like. Yeah – a whole lotta nothing. We decided instead of buying cards we’d save the $10 for bus tickets to get my husband to work instead.
But, that Valentine’s Day he came home with what everyone who hears this story says is the worst Valentine’s gift ever. He brought me a bottle of my favorite shampoo and conditioner. I had given up buying this luxury a few years before in order to put the money towards diapers and food, and had gone with a much cheaper brand.We had both made a lot of sacrifices to keep our kids clothed and fed.
For me – it was the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. That gift said it was OK to spend money on myself. That gift said it was OK to want to look nice, or even want something so feminine and frivolous as having shiny scented hair.
People have made fun of my husband for that gift. But I loved it because it showed that he’d noticed my sacrifice – even though I’d never once complained. More than buying the right brand, he even remembered the kind I buy for my hair type. He knew that it was a small thing that made me feel pretty and I’d never buy for myself. For me, expensive shampoo is like wearing fancy panties – they make you feel special even though no one will ever see them. I had a luxurious 2hr bath and washed my hair twice that night. It was glorious.
The best gifts aren’t the most expensive ones. They just require thought and heart – and this one had both in abundance. Silly? No way. What was the best Valentine’s Day gift/gesture you’ve received?
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