Back in our college days, I was cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at our apartment when my roommate Max dragged in a couple of grad students she knew would be alone on the holiday. One was a tall thin guy who didn’t say two words to me but ate everything that came within reach. We were married two years later. It’s been almost forty years, and he’s still my valentine!
Here’s a Valentines Day excerpt from my book, Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies
Valentine’s Day BC (BEFORE Children) vs AD (AFTER Delivery)
In the years before children (BC) I considered myself a reasonably cultured person.
- Books? I bought them in hardbound so I’d be early enough to disagree with the review in the New York Times.
- Movies? I saw them before Siskel & Ebert.
(Barb’s Guide to Films: if the characters kiss a lot, have sex, and then kill each other, it’s American. If the characters smoke a lot, have sex, and then kill themselves, it’s foreign.)
- Music? I once sat through an entire performance of Nixon in China. On purpose.
- Food? I ate pasta before they stopped calling it spaghetti. Even before you could get squid-ink pasta with arugula oil at the Piggly Wiggly.
- News and Current Events? I cared about who won the Booker Prize. Really.
But in the years AD (After Delivery) things changed.
- Books? After spending three hours in the children’s section of the library picking out 47 titles in the “Shelley’s Sleepover Surprise” series for my daughters and another 35 of “Sammy Skunk Surprises Shelley” for my son, I only had time to grab whatever adult library books haven’t yet been reshelved as I was checking out. Some titles I totally did not make up: Do It Yourself Coffin for Pets, Snow Caves for Fun and Survival, 101 Uses for a Dead Cat (Actually, this one was useful — we’ve had lots of cats.)
- Movies? If it didn’t feature an animated rodent, I didn’t see it.
- Music? I’d sing “Shake, shake, shake my sillies out” along with the Raffi tape. Then I’d realize two things. I knew all the words. And I was only one in the car.
- Food? We favored restaurants where the paper-wrapped entrees came boxed with a plastic surprise. Occasionally we scored a babysitter (preferably someone new in town who hadn’t heard about that incident involving the four-year-old, the banana, sixteen metal miniature cars, and the microwave) and we went to a restaurant with cassoulet and candles instead of kids and ketchup. But I still had an uncontrollable urge to grab a stack of napkins “just in case” and to cut up somebody’s meat. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to eat fast because when the food arrived, somebody would announce that they hafta go right now.
- News? Luckily not much happened from mid-80’s to mid-90’s. Until the Gulf War, I only turned on the news to find out which day it was so I wouldn’t miss trash pickup. Again. Of course, in 1989 I did have to tune in for the Collapse of Godless Communism and the Triumph of Western Ideals of Freedom, Capitalism, and Fast Food Franchises. And the Kennedy rape trial.
UPDATE: With the departure of Child #4, I’ve now graduated from AD to LBWKLH&DD**.
**(A priest, a minister and a rabbi were talking about when life begins. The priest said: “Life begins at conception.” The minister said: “Life begins when the fetus is viable.” The rabbi said: “Life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies.”)
- Books and Music? Thanks to e-book readers and noise-cancelling headphones, I now sit on public transportation and nobody can tell if I’m actually reading Debby & the Duke do Dallas while listening to Gretchen Wilson’s Redneck Woman, (although I get some odd looks when I belt the “Hell, Yeah’s” out loud…)
- Movies? Playing catch-up. Apparently some movies in the 80s and 90s did not have animated rodents. Who knew?
- Food? I live in Scotland. I can only dream of the secret menu at In-N-Out Burgers…
- News? Thanks to Twitter, I’m on it. #trending, #MeghanMarkle, #babybump
Of course, the one day of the year that really separates the BCs, the ADs, and the LBWKLH&DDs is Valentine’s Day. From the recession, I know that eating in is the new eating out. From watching Hallmark commercials, I know that Mr. BC arrives with flowers, candy and a card expressing his deepest thoughts in rhyming couplets. And from reading Cosmo in the grocery store checkout lines, I know that Ms. BC, wearing some X-rated lingerie, shows him into the dining room where they share an intimate candlelit supper à deux. (Whipped cream optional).
Yes, readers, the real dividing line between BC, AD, and LBWKLH&DDs is: the dining room. BCs have one. ADs have a room which was described by the realtor as a formal dining room, but which has not been the site of an actual meal since Thanksgiving of 1987.
As an AD, I didn’t want the other moms to think I was sacrificing my children’s self-expression and creativity on the altar of crass commercialism by having them send out pre-Hallmarked Garfield valentines with little candies attached. So each year I excavated the dining room table from under the sewing machine and a few dozen of my current sewing and quilting projects. Then I re-covered the table with enough art supplies for my kids to make valentines for every child in a three-state radius. After days of creative self-expression, each child would have turned out one masterpiece such as:
Roses are red, violets are pink.
Mom makes me send cards to the whole class,
But you still stink.
(Cue the late-night run for whatever candy-clad valentines were still left in the stores.)
But I’m ready for this Valentine’s Day. When my husband arrives and asks, “Hey, this wasn’t one of those holidays where I have to DO something, was it?”, I will strike a sultry pose in my Life’s too short to stuff mushrooms apron, and hand him his valentine:
Roses are red, some violets are white.
Let’s do something wild, spontaneous and different RIGHT ON THE DINING ROOM TABLE.
Let’s eat there tonight.