We never made a conscious decision to put Valentine’s Day on the back burner, but Thurston and I usually just bought each other a card – Hallmark’s intent – and said we loved each other. February 14, 2018 was not one of my “firsts” since his death because of how we had approached the day throughout our marriage.
With no remembrances of exquisite jewelry, tempting candies or dinners at fine restaurants, it was a good day, with the simple memory and sweetness of how he loved me – and I loved him – on a daily basis. We never felt the need to make Valentine’s Day one that had to be topped each year.
Our daughter, however, did remind me of one thing Thurston did on Valentine’s Day in 1995. It reflects how much he loved her and why she returned that love with enthusiasm.
In 1995, I was commuting to Lexington from St. Matthews, the media specialist (that’s a fancy public school name for a librarian) at a new elementary school in a new school. Our daughter went to school with me and attended third and fourth grades at Midway Elementary School. They were two long years, rising at 5 a.m. to dress, eat breakfast and be ready to leave the house by 6 a.m. The media center (that’s a fancy public school name for a library) opened at 7:30; my required arrival time was 7:15 a.m.
The first year was a daunting adjustment. We had to make sure we had everything we needed for a day an hour away from home. There would be no turning back to get something we forgot. We both had to learn to be well prepared the night before. My mother always said Laura was “born grown.” Even as a young child, she carried out her age-appropriate responsibilities earnestly.
So it was unusual that on Feb. 14, 1995, she forgot the Valentines she had prepared the night before. Since she slept on the way to school every day, she did not realize her mistake until we arrived. She was crestfallen and begged me to call her daddy to bring her Valentines. I explained that it was unrealistic to ask her dad to drive that far and that she could bring them the next day. She hung her head, tears cascading down her cheeks, and walked into school.
About the time we were three-quarters of the way to Lexington, Thurston was rising and beginning his day. When he saw the Valentine’s Day cards on the kitchen table, he knew immediately what had happened. After dressing and eating breakfast, he drove the one-hour drive to Lexington, walked into the media center and asked me to take the cards to Laura.
I refused. I suggested, instead, that he take them to her classroom, knowing that it had been a sacrifice for him to surprise her by helping prevent her from feeling awkward among her classmates. We walked to the school office, secured a pass for him and he went on his way to Mrs. Edwards’ classroom.
I never saw the look on Laura’s face, but I did see the one on Thurston’s when he stopped by to say goodbye before heading on to work. He was beaming, and I think perhaps his daughter had crowned him king of the universe when Mrs. Edwards opened the door and Laura saw his smile. He had helped her save face, and she has never forgotten it.
Laura and I smiled together as she recalled this story of love and sacrifice. Sweet memories of her first Valentine were enough to make the day a very special one in 2018.