Valentine’s Days Past and Present

This Valentine’s Day marked the 10th anniversary
of me not being proposed to. I’d been
dating this man for just over a year and all signs pointed to marriage. A
dinner reservation was made at The Melting Pot, the place we had gone to months
earlier the night before we first exchanged I love yous. I was already a
little nervous as we were taken to our table. Then the woman who seated us said,
“You should know this is a lucky table. The couple who sat here right before
you got engaged! Isn’t that exciting?! Other diners were taking pictures; it
was oh so romantic.” Cue stomach ache. I’m afraid I don’t even remember much about
the meal that night. But no, our “lucky” table did not bear witness to a second
marriage proposal that particular evening. And the disappointment did feel
pretty crushing at the time.

 

This year’s Valentine’s Day flowers

Timing really is everything. My date that night was already
researching engagement rings and planning a phone call to my father—I
come from an old school family. A proposal did come that same year. Less than
two months after Valentine’s Day. In Paris. And yes, it was very romantic, so much more so than it
would have been amidst bubbling pots of melted cheese. There was no view of
a lit up Notre-Dame de Paris as backdrop at The Melting Pot in DC, thank you
very much. Not that it’s a competition between the woman who was proposed to
at The Melting Pot and me. But I win! (Kidding, sort of.) I made sure this year to say
to my husband, “Hey, happy 10th anniversary of the night we did not
get engaged!” To which he responded, rolling his eyes, “You say that like it
didn’t work out in the end!” We laughed. And we both still–sort of–want to
smack the seating hostess who put a damper on that Valentine’s Day for us. She couldn’t have known, of course. That’s okay.

It just took a little more time, and patience
Fast forward six years. Valentine’s Day 2010, I was pregnant
out to *there*, and watching the
Vancouver Winter Olympics from my couch in DC was the closest I got to physical fitness of any kind.
That’s unless you count bicep curls, chugging the chocolate milk by the
gallons. Hey, I was pregnant and needed the calcium. And I needed something to
wash down the Nutella-smothered croissants (yes, plural) that were my nighttime
snack about 30 minutes before bed every night.
Two other things stand out about that one. That Valentine’s Day came a few days after the
record-breaking East Coast blizzard that became known as Snowmaggedon. If you looked out
onto our street after snow had been falling for two days, every single car was
still buried in snow for hours and hours … except for our little SUV. It was
all pristine whiteness as far as the eye could see, with this shock of bright,
shiny red (the color of our car) outside our house. The wonderful man who didn’t
propose 10 Valentine’s Days ago had diligently dug out our car and cleared several
yards’ worth of street in the event that his wife went into labor. This was
also the weekend that the women in my Puerto Rican family—my mother, sister,
sister-in-law, and nieces, the women I love best and most fiercely in this life—flew
up to DC to throw a baby shower for us. My nieces played in snow for the first
time in their life. We had amazing food and great laughs. Anytime we went out,
we’d walk hand-in-hand or linking elbows to keep from slipping on the snow and
ice. It was one of the happiest, most unforgettable Valentine’s Days of my
entire life. I felt so loved!

 

Snowmageddon 2010. My husband was getting geared up to start digging …
In February of 2013, our son started preschool two mornings
a week. It was his and my first real separation since he was born. And it was
tough. He cried for his mama quite a lot. And Mama did her share of crying when
he wasn’t looking. Valentine’s Day fell on his second week of school. Somehow, I
(literally) missed the memo that each child was asked to bring Valentine’s
cards and treats for the entire class. I was the only parent there with a child
who wouldn’t stop crying, and who hadn’t brought anything for the other kids.
Basically I spent it apologizing to all the other parents. “Hi, yes, I’m the
mother of the new—screaming—boy over there. We didn’t bring anything for
Valentine’s Day, sorry. But nice to meet you! How about a play date…?” It wasn’t
the happiest.

One year later, the boy adores school and would go every day
if he could. “Bye, Mama! … Go, Mama!” He says at drop-off. “Okay, I’m going, I’m
going …” I respond.

I spent this Valentine’s Day enjoying snow day #2 this week,
as well as all the fruits of my cooking and baking from the previous day. It
was also spent packing for my trip to New York City. I am writing this blog on
the Amtrak train with snow blowing outside the window! I have developed a tradition
of traveling to Manhattan by myself every year in February. It is by far the
most affordable month (wonder why that is) and it allows me to continue research for my first
novel (now 114,000 words-, 390 pages- strong) in this “concrete jungle where dreams
are made of…”
13 Feb 2014 cooking and baking. And I couldn’t resist a food shot.
I hope you had a very happy Valentine’s Day. Who cares if it’s
cheesy and commercialized! It’s a day for celebrating love and chocolate. And I
hope you had plenty of both wherever you were.
And if something you deem important didn’t happen to come true for you this time, maybe be
patient, give it time …
View from the window of my DC-NYC train

 

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