"It was the last week in January. Back in my own home, tuned in to my favorite Irish radio station and presenter, I was listening to him talk about the Winter Blues. January 27th had been proclaimed the worst day of the year. A Welsh academic had worked out a formula based on bad weather, being broke, fading Christmas memories and failed New Year's resolutions. The result was that you'd be better off staying under the covers on that day, the most miserable day of the year. Never mind my broken heart. The researcher had not even needed to take that into consideration. Welcome back to Ireland, real life and it’s back to business, Cherie.
The following days found me somewhat lethargic, lack luster and depressed. My business and the presence of Patrick in the house kept me from falling into a catatonic state. The weather didn’t help, nor did the upcoming Valentine’s frenzy that takes hold of the country every year leading up to the 14th of February. Wherever I went something would remind me that this was an important day to celebrate love. Shop displays with everything in red − from cards to flowers, teddy bears to underwear, chocolates to jewelry, and not to mention red balloons labeled, “For the one I love this Valentine’s.” But what about those of us that don’t have one?
Cards the size of paintings stared at me from shop windows “To the love of my life.” What about those who never even had a love of any kind? Or about those who had lost one?
Book your seat in a restaurant for that night because couples will be out in force, and only show your face at the hostess stand if you have someone on your arm; otherwise, your restaurant experience will run into a depression avalanche. Secure advertising space in your local or even national paper! So that the world can see that you have a sweetheart who loves you and that you are not alone on this heavenly day.
Surely, I wasn’t the only one in the world who felt this way? And to be hoping that some unknown stranger had secretly been pining for my attention sounded like a child’s fairy tale or a thought some pubescent teenagers would occupy themselves with. Growing up in Germany, Valentine’s Day hadn’t played a big role. I can’t say when it reached the German shores, probably in the 90s once we had already moved to Ireland. To tell the truth, it was not until I was married and living in Ireland that I had realized this holiday existed. But my then husband was not much of a romantic, so I didn’t receive a card then either. The first occasion I ever received a card is almost too embarrassing to mention.
It happened while Bernard and I were married and lived on the farm. My children attended a Catholic prep school in Limerick, and I took them there by car every day in the morning and picked them up in the afternoon. Sometimes while I was waiting for them to come out of the building, I talked to an old gentleman who was there to collect his grandson. We chatted about the school, the weather, and gardening mostly. But one fine Valentine’s Day this man gave me my first Valentine’s Day card, which read “To the one I am dreaming about.”
It was perfectly lovely to be admired and desired, but for him to express such sentiments that could never be said aloud made for one awkward situation. Apparently, he thought that my children and marriage, and the 30 years between us might just be overcome by an admission of boyish longing.
Mortified, yet tickled pink, I took it home to Bernard who was working on the farmyard. He was aghast. I think that’s when he first learned about the existence of Valentine’s Day.
“If you ask me, it’s all one big commercial hype over nothing,” he called down from his tractor, scratching his head. And ever the lyrical poet, he added, “Just another day for selling things, what with Christmas being over and Easter far away. Just like the fad of Mother’s Day.”
With that clarified, he put his woolly cap back on and returned to his task at hand, cleaning up the manure on the yard. Needless to say, I never got a Valentine’s card from him after that, but I have received quite a few since I left him.
So, do you leave a man who doesn’t give you cards or flowers on Valentine’s Day? In the long run, a man who sees no purpose in romance or affectionate gestures is undoubtedly worse than an old codger who hits on you in a schoolyard."
Excerpt from Next time Lucky: Lessons of a Matchmaker