Every year starting on the first of February I leave my Bradley notes, little gifts, do him special favors - all kinds of things. I do this daily for the first two weeks of February and he wraps it up on February 14 with some amazing date night. Some would stop me right here and argue that we should be doing this year long - and we do - but Valentine's day is somewhat special for us.
Wanna hear a sappy love story?
1996. I was a junior, he was a senior. We were at a vocational school. It was my first year there and we had just returned from Christmas break. I started noticing him, EVERYWHERE. He was around every corner. He would bump into me in the hall. He would walk by the doorway of all of my classes and peek in, but only just long enough to make eye contact. His appearances left me curious, wondering just what he was up to. Was he looking for me?
We had actually met several months before during my junior orientation. On that day he was a shameless flirt, arrogant in every possible way. I was "taken" (in the sense that teenagers often are, meaning simply infatuated with my current boyfriend) and not interested. Ironically my mother actually said to me "oh Jessi, you could date him this year." If she had only known...
On February 14, 1996, after weeks of being followed around by this seemingly shy boy, he finally approaches me. Stumbling on words but with a smile in his beautiful blue/gray eyes, he says... "um... so... I've been checking you out for a while now and I thought I should ask your name..." Really romantic, right?
Over the next few days I received several emails from him - some poems and just general questions from him as he pursued my heart (I later printed them all off and I still have them to this day.) A friend of his even emailed me and told me how out of character for him this behavior really was - that he wasn't shy at all, but for some reason with me he was (which is true - this man, even when he was that boy, is one of the most outspoken and extroverted people that I have ever met.)
A couple of weeks went by. Dozens of emails exchanged. A few phone calls shared. And then everything changed. I realized on this particular day that I hadn't seen him yet. I asked for a hall pass so that I could turn the tables and go find him. He was right where I thought he would be - hacky-sacking with some other guys in the commons area. I walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, smiled, and then just wrapped me up in his arms -- AND HE KISSED ME!
That was our first kiss.
He says he knew he would marry me that first time he saw me
after we returned from Christmas break. At that moment, as we both stood
there surprised, I think I knew it too.
All I wanted to do was say hello, and he kissed me. Later I learned what was going on his mind, why he would think that was ok to do... After a weekend of struggle, of truly painful circumstances, he had determined to leave school and end his life. But when he saw me, as ridiculous as it may sound, he decided that ending his life would be a mistake. Seeing my face, taking that chance at our first kiss, it all saved his life. We were engaged about seven weeks later. We married that July. And it all began on Valentine's day. So yeah, Valentine's day is kind of special for us.
Now, I actually began writing this earlier this week, mid-flu. Our normal 14 days has been sabotaged by germs and coughing and sleeping and sneezing. Not being able to do all these things I had planned for has been slightly disappointing, but you know, in sickness and in health. And I thought I would write here about all these ideas that I had planned to do, things that I do to show him how I love him, to show him how I love how he loves me.
And then the Valentine's day hate started flying around. All of the "We don't do that" and "It's a Hallmark holiday" and "I hate Valentine's day" comments...
Sometimes it can be hard not to let statements that come off as crass steal your joy.
But I get it. For some, today hurts. Love lost. Broken hearts. Loneliness. Materialism. It's all a part of the day. It can be hard to see past the hurt, past the struggle, past the money, past being alone in a world plastered in candy hearts and red roses contrasted against a snowy gray sky.
Just the same, I don't hate Valentine's day.
In my home, in my heart, it means so much more than just flowers and candy and fancy dinners out. In my home, in my heart, it means life found in love; It means celebrating love even when it's hard. It means remembering where we've been and looking forward to what lies ahead. It means having an excuse to indulge in some of these "Hallmark" things because we want to - because we can - because we've been blessed with someone to do so.
18 years ago today a seemingly shy boy asked me my name, stole my heart, and changed my life. I celebrate that. That's why I don't hate Valentine's day.
I love you, my Bradley.