list 4: the sweetest things don’t come in a box of chocolates
I can’t say that I am the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong. I am a hopeless romantic and any gesture of love is GOLD in my books. I even manage to see hearts in just about everything (a rock, a watermark on the sidewalk, a jam stain on the counter, a knot in a piece of wood). But I can’t help but wonder when love became so consumer-oriented? Valentine’s Day just feels like another Christmas to me, except with more pink lingerie and less shortbread cookies. When did showing someone you care become synonymous with running out and buying chocolate and flowers and jewelry on the one day when everyone else is doing it?
Of course, I love flowers as much as the next girl (I buy myself a bouquet almost every week) but I’d much rather get a bunch of ranunculus tied with a string of raffia on a Tuesday in May than a dozen roses in a box on Valentine’s Day. That to me is true love. It means that someone was thinking of you out of the blue. In fact, I think you’ll find that the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for you probably didn’t happen on Valentine’s Day. And it most likely didn’t involve large sums of money either.
Case in point, here is a list of some of the sweetest things that have been done for me over the years.
- I remember a certain April Fool’s day when I was a young girl. I walked into my bedroom after school to find my sisters and mom hanging paper fish from my ceiling. You see, in Québec, April Fool’s day is called Poisson d’Avril (literally April’s fish). So generally, kids play pranks by sticking paper fish on other people’s backs (adults especially). The trick is to do it surreptitiously so they walk around like fools all day with a fish on their backs. And I just love that my sisters and mom took it a step further and surprised me with dozens of colorful fish of all sizes, took the time to cut them out and hang them one by one. When I went to bed that night, I felt like a mermaid under the sea.
- 13 years old. Hooked on Cheez Whiz. Something that you never found in our fridge at home but at my friend Isabelle’s house, there was always Cheez Whiz and I was addicted to that shit. I surely downed 8 pieces of white Weston toast loaded with it every time I went there. Her family used to poke fun at me when they really ought to have called Cheez Whiz anonymous on my ass. One night, as Pierre (Isabelle’s dad) drove me home, he stopped at the local corner store. Isabelle and her sisters were giggling in the back seat and I was annoyed because I didn’t know why. When Pierre returned from his secret mission, he handed me a brown paper bag in which there was… you guessed it, Cheez Whiz. Little did they know that what they perceived as a joke actually filled me with immense joy. To have my very own Cheez Whiz at home made me oh so happy. I savored every single spoonful of it. Now, of course, you wouldn’t catch me eating the stuff, but at the time, that little jar of Cheez Whiz was bliss.
- A note left by a dear friend upon returning from my recent trip to England: Welcome home weary traveler! Montreal loves you, your home is in good repair, a bottle of (admittedly cheap) wine awaits and all will be well. Why not put on some good music and (if I may be so bold as to suggest it), try to steer clear of the maudlin? Tomorrow will take care of itself. Talk soon. r.
- After graduating from university, I was offered a 3-month ornithology internship in Hawaii. I accepted almost immediately without knowing how I was going to pay for the plane ticket to get there, given that I was a university student with a whopping debt. Our family never did have much money. We had what we needed, nothing less, but certainly couldn’t afford luxury. When I told my parents about the internship, I was hoping they might be able to lend me a couple hundred dollars (which was a lot at the time). Instead, they brought me to their room, pulled out a gigantic jar of coins that they had been saving for months and dumped it on the bed. I don’t remember how much money there was in that pile of dimes and quarters and loonies but it was enough to get me to Hawaii… or close enough. I have them to thank for my first real travel experience.
- About 8 years ago, when I left Montreal to live in Nova Scotia, my dear friend Collin gave me a mixed CD. Collin is a master music mixer. Just ask anyone. But this time he really went the extra mile and created a mix that was based on a love theme. Every song was full of love and with it, came a beautiful booklet (he is a graphic designer for a marketing company). The booklet had photos of friends and snippets of funny emails exchanged between us throughout the year (5 things we want to accomplish before we die, type of thing). I cried in the restaurant when he gave it to me.
- While I was living in Nova Scotia, my sister and her husband rallied all my friends in Montreal to fund a flight home and throw a Polynesian luau pool bash to celebrate my 30th birthday. There’s nothing quite like a bunch of friends pooling funds to fly you home and celebrate your birthday to make a girl feel special and loved.
- When K and I started dating, he went on vacation for a few weeks one summer and when you are in the throws of new love, three weeks feels like an eternity. Thank God for Häagen–Dazs cappuccino commotion and chick flicks to help a girl get through such torment. One day, a few days before K’s planned return, as I was about to indulge in said ice cream coma, feeling sorry for myself, the door bell rang. And there he was, looking ravishing, with a bouquet of flowers.
- When I called my friend Kat two years ago to tell her that K and I were separating and I didn’t know what to do or where to go because I didn’t have a pot to piss in, she immediately, without even thinking about it, bought a plane ticket for me. She flew me to her place in Ontario on Valentine’s Day, she fed me healthy food and poured the wine and listened to me and took care of me as had the flu and slept for 36 hours strait. She healed me and prepared me for the next step in my journey to Montreal, where I was to start anew. I will forever be grateful for the rope she threw my way when I felt like I was drowning in sorrow.
- In the same vain… I couldn’t have started over without my cousin Amy who let me live with her for free for 6 months whilst I got back on my feet. And to my friend Jamie who gave me a free 3-month yoga membership (my spirit needed that) and his old iPod. I know it sounds silly because mp3 players are pretty affordable nowadays but when you have nothing… an iPod is the last thing on your list of things to buy. So when a friend gives one to you (the person who loves music more than most things in this world)… it means everything.
- Receiving this emergency kit last year.
And that doesn’t even count every batch of cookies baked for me, dinners delivered when I was too exhausted and overworked to cook, espressos on the house, the Chinese florist that always throws in a couple extra flowers for free, tears wiped with rugged thumbs or the backs of soft hands, sweet comments left on my blog that make my day, hugs, taps on the back, kicks in the butt, words of encouragement, foot rubs, shoulder squeezes, smiles shared. Those are the little things that really define love, in my books. And I am truly blessed for all the love I have in my life.
What is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for you?