My Funny Valentine

If you have read the blog “ The Perfect Gift,” you should guess correctly that my wife and I don’t do anything special on Valentine’s day.

Dinner out? Are you kidding? V-Day rivals Mother’s Day as the absolute worst day to dine out. She prefers my home cooked cuisine anyway.

A special piece of jewelry? Obviously you haven’t seen her museum quality jewelry designs.

Flowers? I’m allergic to them. Chocolate? It’s our go to dessert. Perfume? She still has a bottle she bought on our honeymoon.

Nope. It will be another “boring” evening that includes a wine glass clink and mutual happy V-Day wishes.

Don’t let that lead you to believe we have nothing to celebrate.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, all happy relationships are alike, all unhappy ones are unhappy in their own ways. If this were the case, there’d be no point in you reading this blog, because nothing in it would strike you as unique. Our relationship is so boringly happy it makes me reluctant to impose it on you.

Nonetheless, here is my Valentine’s Day tribute to a woman who is, Tolstoy’s admonition notwithstanding, by no means ordinary. She is a source of continuous entertainment thanks to her decidedly dominant right brain, the neurologic endowment of the most talented artists and creative thinkers. As one of our friends who is also married to an artist says, “she has the right brain and I have the wrong brain.” Mine is a more straight ahead and, not that she would always agree, practical one. Just as arriving in Oz turned Dorothy’s world from black and white to color, her obtuse connections and conflations open my eyes to beautiful new worlds.

My funny valentine is funny, without effort, each minute of every day. Charmingly and maddeningly by turns.

As readers know, I would be the last person to believe marriages are made in heaven. First, to believe that, you have to believe such a place exists. Forget the Greek myth that every being is split in two and we find our other halves. I am certain that for each of us there are millions who could potentially be our “one and only,” those who possess personality traits that complement ours, values that meld with our own, physical traits that we find attractive and, most important, smell good to us.

In our random wandering through the world, when we find ourselves in the proximity of such a one at the optimal moment, we encounter our “one and only.” Only in retrospect do we ascribe the hand of fate to our choice.

And yet…

Born and raised in Philadelphia, I had no idea where Schenectady, NY was let alone that there was an excellent college, Union, located there. One snowy day when I had wisely determined it would be folly to venture out in my jalopy with its bald tires, my mother, a true mid-century proponent of free range children, pushed me out into the storm to attend swim practice. I needed to learn how to drive in all conditions, she said. Somehow, and here the notion of divine providence seems attractive, I arrived at the pool intact. There, waiting for me was Union’s swim coach who was visiting his former college roommate, the coach of my age group swim team. He said he’d been hoping I’d show up because, unlike many of my teammates at the Vesper Boat Club, what I lacked in swimming prowess, I made up for in brains. I was the ideal candidate to be recruited for the division three athletic program of this top tier small college.

My first year at Union was marked by an awakening to the wide world outside of my provincial upbringing, a newfound love for learning, and, most important, an intense appreciation for a means of transportation to regional women’s colleges. That need was fulfilled by way of my association with a fellow fraternity pledge who was marginally psychotic but possessed one overriding appealing attribute. A car.

So it was that my new roommate and I ventured north to Saratoga Springs one Friday evening in September of our sophomore year to join the crush of bodies at D’Andrea’s bar. There, 35 cent drafts of Utica Club beer in hand, we sought out soulmates. Or at least one who would fill the role for the evening.

Neither materialized.

Resigned to returning to our monk-like existence, we got in the car and began the sad journey home. Suddenly, Michael pulled over. “Hey Dove,” he said, “before we go, would you mind if we made a quick stop? My brother told me a girl he was dating this summer started at Skidmore this year. Never met her and I’d like to introduce myself.”

How we found out what dorm she was in or where the building was, I have no clue, but in short order we entered the living room of Court Street House and introduced ourselves to a housemother who, I’m sure, would have come in handy defending the Capitol Building on January 6. She intoned into the intercom, “Sandra Smith. You have gentleman callers.”

Moments later a figure emerged from a hallway. Her long dark hair was the tangled mass of a perm that she hadn’t set or brushed out giving her a Medusa-like look. Her eyes were surrounded with some kind of blackening agent. As a cape she wore a dusty, sickly green corduroy curtain. “I hope you’ll excuse my appearance,”she said, “ I never thought boys would come looking for me the first week of school and I’m on my way to our freshman skit on the Salem witch trials.”

There was no cause to apologize. Not even that costume could conceal her beauty.

Still, nothing prepared me for the true extent of it. Two weeks later I waited for her again in that living room. When she emerged from the same hallway in her true form I almost fell over. I can’t recall much about that date, but will never forget us walking back to her dorm. Curfew time had come much too quickly. We stopped and kissed. Surely the sweetest kiss any man has ever experienced. Now bear in mind, in those post-Victorian times, if a girl kissed on the first date it meant one of two things. Either she was a loose woman or she really, really liked you.

At that moment I cared not a bit which of those was the case.

“My, my, “she chided, “Michael told me you were a sweet old fashioned boy.”

“Well,” I replied, clearly inspired to a witty repost by the will of the Almighty, “That’s the most old fashioned thing there is, isn’t it?”

At that moment I knew. This was “The One.”

As for her, a girl who could have her pick of the crop, looking ahead to many more such encounters, surely, such a thought was the furthest thing from her mind.

So began our relationship’s meandering journey. Despite many impediments along the way, including her practical determination to avail herself of the freedom and options afforded by being away at college, our different religious backgrounds and family objections, it would lead us to the altar.

By the time we got there it was clear to us both that if there is such a thing as a match made in heaven, that’s where ours had been made. Now, more than half a century later, that belief grows stronger day by day.

Today, and doubtless for as long as we are blessed to share each day together, the lyrics of that jazz classic will hold true.

For me and my funny valentine, “each day is Valentine’s Day.”


  1. This is a wonderful blog addition and so very sweet! As sweet as those little heart confections that say “be my Valentine” printed on the top. It doesn’t take very long for you and your soulmate to figure out that the best romance on V day is to stay home with a good home cooked meal and pop-a-cork with a chocolate desert. Forget flowers, they’re way overpriced this time of year. So glad I found my true Valentine, and for others who haven’t, keep looking! He or she is out there. – Dorothy


  2. Your recounting of the first time you met your wife reminds me of Paul’s and my first date the second time around when I had both hands swaddled in gauze due to the overzealous planting of tulip bulbs the day before. My hair was cut short and I’d let it go brown. It was the 1980s and I was wearing one of those awful dresses that businesswomen wore back then. When we first met years before, I had long blond hair and short skirts. When Paul got home from this date, his brother asked how it went. “She looked terrible … but I really like her.” Marriage for us did not come until round 3 of dating, but round two was a lot of fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s