Saturday, February 1, 2014


“A new command I give you:
Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13: 34
My tongue is still stuck to the roof of my mouth from licking the stamps on the Christmas cards.  Now it's time to send valentines?

Responding to the valentines that grace our mailbox every year, I am supposed to send cards to my parents, siblings, grandparents, children, grandkids . . .  Come February first I've noticed our bank has a special loan officer handling Card Loans—not car loans—Card Loans to help defray the Valentine's Day crunch.

This year, I am not going to succumb. Blame the economy, the barometric pressure or the fact it's Tuesday, I will buy one valentine, and one valentine only:  for my hubby.
While I’m shopping in a neighborhood discount store, I decide the time has come.  I steer my cart toward the valentine section, my eyes locked on a row of masculine-looking cards.  Then it happens.  Out of the corner of my eye I spot a valentine with a white kitty on it, "To a Purr-fectly Sweet Grand-daughter on Valentine's Day".  Maybe, just one more . . .

"No!" I cry, averting my eyes.  My attention shifts to cards that say,

"Grandmothers are Special on Valentine's Day".  I shove my cart into traffic, nearly running into the blazing pole of a blue-light special. A guilt cloud forms above my head.  Lightning threatens.  I duck into the toilet paper aisle.

"Only one, only one . . ."

An elderly woman peers at me over her glasses and scurries away as if I am rabid.  I take a detour through the hardware section.  The red hearts are everywhere, hanging from the ceiling, plastered on displays of screwdrivers and hammers.  I hear their pulse dogging me.

Buy, buy . . . my mother, my sisters, my kids . . .

I feel a jolt as Cupid's arrow impales my cart.  The wheels start moving of their own accord as he reels me in.

"No, no, I won't go!" I yell.  I grab onto a display of bean bag chairs, but am yanked away amid a blizzard of foam beads. 

A clerk rushes out of the music section, smiles a pasty smile and says, "May I help you?"

"Pleeze!" I wail, hanging onto his pocket protector as my cart is pulled magnetically toward the greeting cards.  "Help me!"

He shakes me off like I'm a puppy biting his ankle.

Heart-shaped boxes of chocolate appear on my right. I'm close. Much too close. With a sudden rush of adrenaline, I whip my cart to the left, racing past the aspirin and bulk softeners. I commandeer a shelf of antacids. Maybe if my cart is full, Cupid will let me go in peace.
The intercom blares. "Security, aisle three."

A uniformed man with "Bob" embroidered on his pocket appears as I empty a shelf of strawberry essence shampoo.  I risk a glance.  I do not see a gun.

"Take me into protective custody," I scream as I swipe a row of deodorant into my cart. 

"Take it easy, lady," he says, his eyes searching for back-up. "What seems to be the problem?"

I stop commandeering, emptying and swiping long enough to notice a crowd has gathered.  Children clutch their parent's legs, whimpering. Fingers point. They whisper behind closed hands.

"I . . . I need to buy a Valentine's Day card for my husband but I'm afraid. . ."

Female heads nod.  They know.

A woman carrying a toddler ventures toward me, her hand outstretched.  "It will be all right," she says.  "I'll help you."

As I take her hand the crowd applauds.  I leave my cart with the security guard.  He shakes his head, unaware admitting my problem is the first step toward a cure.

The woman leads me toward the cards.  My heart races and my palms sweat but resolutely, she does not let me run away from my fear.

“I'll stay with you," she says.  The little girl offers to share her lollipop.

We stop in front of the Sweetheart/Ex Husband/Significant Other section of the cards.  The woman strategically positions her body between me and the Mother-in-law/Babysitter/ Milkman section.  With shaking hands I make my choice.

She nods, approvingly.  "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" she asks.  

We head toward the check-out.  I snatch a red box of chocolates as we walk past and clutch it against my chest.  There.  I'm done.  I won't need to deal with this for another year.

As I pull out of the parking lot, I wave to the woman with the toddler.  She was so kind.  So patient.  I really should send her a thank you note. 

No . . . a valentine.

I speed homeward ever faster, feeling the wings of Cupid beating at my back.

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