Love and chocolates - FamilyEducation

Love and chocolates

February 14,2008
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Yesterday I dragged my sick, coughing, sore-throated self to Target with my daughter, looking for Valentines, of course, for both kids to hand out at their respective parties.  I'm not sure when Valentine's Day became so complicated, really, so much work, but it happened. Now, every year, I start out with grand plans to help the kids put together crafty little homemade Valentines and then, when that doesn't happen soon enough, I end up at the 11th hour at a place like Target, browsing through boxes of cards, some with gimmicky little do-it-yourself add-ons, like pixie sticks you have to thread through tiny slits to fashion an arrow.

T. and I decided on Shrek Valentines and Lego ones for L., and just as I was trying to get T. out of the candy/gift aisle and away from an oversized green frog with big kissy lips, I tuned into the conversation two young men were having about Valentine's Day plans, and the merits of all the different heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.   Then, just as I had wrestled the green frog away from T., one of them turned to me to ask me which box I thought his girlfriend might prefer: the bigger box with more chocolates of different varieties, or the smaller one, with better-made chocolates and fewer selections.

 Who is he kidding?  I thought to myself.  There I was, at Target with my four year-old, telling her to put down a large stuffed frog in-between bouts of coughing and nose-blowing and he wants me to weigh in on a box of chocolates for a person I don't even know?

I played along, though, and told him that if it were me, I'd prefer the larger box, of course, over the smaller one because anyone knows that it's far better to have more chocolates to sample then a small box with chocolates more or less of the same kind--how boring is that? His friend looked doubtful.  They thanked me, but I did notice, as I left, that the young man had placed the smaller box into his shopping basket, neatly dismissing my advice.

I felt a little miffed, actually, because all I ever want for Valentine's Day is a large, cheesy, drugstore-bought heart-shaped box of chocolates.  Every year my husband obliges and every year I'm happy to hoard my box of chocolates, sampling the sugary gooey morsels little by little over a period of weeks--small sweet mouthfuls to brighten up the bleakness of the end-of-February days.

A heart-shaped box is all I ever want yet, last year, Scott gave me a small, rectangular-shaped box.

 What's this? I asked him, stiffly.

It was a box of cashew-clusters.  An entire rectangular-shaped box of cashew clusters made by an upscale chocolate company.

Cashew clusters?

I wanted to get you something better, my husband told me. Something more gourmet, something DIFFERENT.

I tried to be grateful, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, but I was sore inside.  Suddenly, the lack of a heart-shaped box of chocolates seemed to me to be a larger, ominous sign of something gone wrong.  Was I no longer worth a heart-shaped box of chocolates?  Had we become so entangled in our busy lives of work and parenting that Valentine's Day became about a rectangular-shaped box filled with the same old same old, bite after bite? What did this mean?  What had happened to us?

I don't want gourmet! I told him, sniffing back tears and indignation.  I don't want gourmet--I want...I want cheesy! 

No sooner had I said that then we both stared at each other, that box of cashew clusters between us on the coffee table.  Then, because really there was nothing else to do, we started laughing, and all my brooding indignation faded away at the thought that it had come to this, that a box of cashew-clusters could have taken on such weight and significance and that I had truly uttered the above sentence.

This morning, over coffee, my husband asked me what I wanted to do on Valentine's Day this year. I told him the truth: that I'd like the kids to go to bed early, then I'd change quickly into my pajamas, put on my fluffy blue-striped sleep socks, and head to bed with a box of tissues, some chamomile tea, and watch Lost. He would be welcome to join me, of course, but only if he was willing to get up from time to time to refill my mug and bring me extra tissues for my nose.

Maybe, even, maybe, I will let him sample a few chocolates from my gigantic heart-shaped box--the one I just know I'll be getting this year.