There’s a measure of fantasy brought forth by the anticipation of any holiday’s arrival. We imagine our Christmas Eves spent by crackling fires, snow falling gently outside our windows, our nights sweetened only by the hand-mulled cider cradled comfortably between our palms. At Easter, we imagine our children lined up obediently, in hand-tailored, wrinkle-free formalwear, awaiting their annual portraits. Prior to Thanksgiving, we salivate over the aroma of a perfectly roasted turkey, and the fresh, cold pop of homemade cranberry chutney between our teeth.
Then, as you know, there’s reality.
I took a sober inventory of my expectations surrounding Valentine’s Day this year, to really weigh them against what I may (or will) actually encounter, and this is what I’ve determined:
Fantasy: I will spend the morning in a spa, having my hair cut, colored, and styled. I will leave perfectly manicured and pedicured, exuding the confidence of an heiress for a romantic evening with my husband.
Reality: I will hastily make a salon appointment to have my ends trimmed and my roots touched up. I will tell the hairdresser, for the sixty-seventh time, that the color she’s using looks brassy, and I want something else. I will leave itchy, covered in hair, with dye stains on my forehead, and spend the remainder of the afternoon crying because my hair is orange.
Fantasy: We will choose heartfelt, sincere, and suggestive greeting cards for one another. We will exchange them in the calm of our living room, professing our undying love to one another. I will file them away in a box of romantic mementos, to treasure for the rest of our days.
Reality: I will buy a card, but forget about it in my handbag. When I see my husband, I will remember the card and hide around a corner to sign it. He will read it, comment on how nice it is, and lean in to give me a kiss. Matthew will run by and snatch the card from his hands. He will circle the couch five or six times, laughing and waving the card wildly over his head, until he gives it to the twins, who will eat it.
Fantasy: My husband will surprise me with two dozen of the most extravagant peach roses I have ever seen. I will squeal with delight, and lovingly trim, feed, arrange, and display them for all to see.
Reality: My husband may pick up a half-dozen multicolored roses. If he does, I will succeed at resuscitating them and put them in an ill-fitting vase. The cats will knock over the vase and eat the petals during the night. We will spend the following day on our hands and knees, scrubbing rose-flecked cat puke from the rug.
Fantasy: We will obtain exclusive reservations at a Zagat-rated restaurant with to-die-for oysters, an unparalleled wine list, and magnificent city views. We will tipsily exchange wanton glances and soft caresses throughout the evening. Our dinner will conclude by playfully feeding one another heart-shaped flourless chocolate cake with fresh raspberries.
Reality: We will bicker with my parents about the time, location, and duration of our Valentine’s Day dinner. It will take four hours to ready the children (and their bags) to leave the house. By the time we depart, I will be sweaty and have mashed cracker in my hair. We will get stuck in afternoon traffic and arrive harried to drop off the babies, finally enjoying the Monday & Tuesday night dinner special, complete with Lipton tea and grapenut pudding, among octogenarians, at a neighborhood restaurant.
Fantasy: I will cap off our romantic evening in lingerie purchased especially for the occasion. The scent of sage, the warm glow of candlelight, and the smooth lyrical stylings of Marvin Gaye will surround and intoxicate us, eventually ushering peaceful slumber in the comfort of one another’s arms.
Reality: It will take two hours to get the babies to sleep. My daughter will wake up screaming several times over the next ninety minutes to belch in our faces. I will fall asleep mumbling, on my husband’s pillow, in a ponytail, hooded sweatshirt, and ripped yoga pants.
Whatever the case, though, I will spend Valentine’s Day with my family, and I suppose that’s the most important thing.
Have fun, though, whatever you manage to do. Just please, please, have a glass of wine for me.