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list 4: the sweetest things don’t come in a box of chocolates

February 11, 2010

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 HäagenDazs 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.

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?

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2010 8:06 pm

    Oh wow I love this post. And it’s really making me think of all the lovely things that were done for me. Thank you Jeanine. xo

  2. February 11, 2010 8:52 pm

    an excellent list of true love. for real and true. for me it was a single yellow rose during the first year of dating. signing the card ‘as you wish’ whenever he sent me flowers. a friend that offered to beat him up when he confessed to cheating. (of course i didn’t let them, but i thought about it) friends at funerals that just sat there and cried with me while they held my hand. my friend that makes me her cornbread because she knows i love it. a friend’s daughter that said she thought i was 21 when it was my 35th birthday. my youngest niece running across the parking lot to leap into my arms. and yes, i could go on.

  3. February 12, 2010 4:26 am

    we had only been seeing each other for a few months and it was the anniversary of my mothers death. i hadn’t mentioned it for whatever reason but he had remembered the date from a conversation a while before.
    he showed up to my door with a bunch of pink lillies and a massive hug. definitely a keeper 🙂

  4. February 12, 2010 11:20 am

    Spontaneous hugs from my children. My husband scraping the ice off MY car’s windows before he leaves for work. Unexpected flowers from a friend. A phone call when I’m feeling down. A friend flying across the country to be with me when I most needed it. The world is full of love, if we just know how to look. What a wonderful, wonderful Valentine’s post. Thank you, lovely woman!

  5. Alison permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:26 pm

    I love love love this post. I tend to go completely blank when faced with a question like you’ve asked here. I’d have to sit and think long and hard and my list would be endless because I’ve been so blessed with beautiful things that people have done for me. But there is one very special memory. I was being tormented by 3 little bitches. Sorry but that’s really what they were. So it was 3 against 1, they were hurting me and there was very little I could do. All of a sudden I see down the street a ways, my brother on his bike (with the banana seat) racing towards us. Just before he reaches the first girl he flies off his bike (literally) and knocks her down. I don’t even really remember what happened after that because I was in such complete and utter awe of my brother. I don’t even know how he knew I was being bothered. Maybe it was a twin thing. All I know is that he showed up when I needed help the most and I’ll never forget it. He was the best brother a girl could ever have.

  6. February 12, 2010 2:46 pm

    I’m all welled up here. First by reading your beautiful post (I swear I’m ready to start bawling… in a good way) and now these comments. The first sweet moment that pops into my head, out of the many I’ve been blessed with (hm… I feel my own list brewing. I hope you don’t mind if I use the theme in a few weeks or so?), is a friend who flew me to L.A. to spend time with her after a painful break-up and helped me open my eyes to reality. Gotta love that.
    By the way, I have the same feelings as you about Valentine’s Day.

  7. Ashley Erin permalink
    February 12, 2010 4:29 pm

    I’m getting all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings reading this post! I adore it!

    One moment I remember is when my boyfriend (now fiance) sent me flowers at work. It wasn’t for a special reason, not my birthday, but just because he wanted to. It was so unexpected that I still smile when I think about it.

    My fiance and I aren’t much for Valentine’s Day either… we try and show each other we love each other in little ways as often as possible. Like when he comes home from the grocery store with a little treat of good dark chocolate for me when I’m grouchy.

  8. February 13, 2010 7:20 pm

    I loved this post. LOVED. My favorite memory is when my children let me “sleep” in one morning and made me breakfast: Yogurt with chocolate chips and strawberries, and served it to me in bed. BLISS.

  9. February 14, 2010 7:54 am

    honey, your life is one amazing adventure story and i’m so happy to share it with you. valentines day doesn’t mean much to me – like you, i prefer love to be shown in random, interesting and spontaneous ways.

    nicest thing ever done for me is a tricky one, there are so many times i have needed to be rescued. what i am going to do now, is go off and make a list of some of them, then send letters (yep, real shit in the post) to the people who have helped me when i have lost my way, to say thanks and i love you to them all

    i love you lady, so very blessed to have you in my life
    xox

  10. February 15, 2010 1:59 pm

    oh, one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me? a little love note under a certain table comes to mind. and a photo propped up against my monitor to remind me of it as i write.

    there are many, but this one memory is golden.

    love you. love your stories. love the infectious grinning buzz you add to my life.

    xxx

  11. February 16, 2010 11:15 am

    🙂 this all just made me smile large !!!

    i could write a laundry list of beautiful things people have done for me but to narrow it down to one, sigh … i can’t do it, there are far to many which means i am truly blessed in my life.

    we don’t ‘do’ valentine’s day but we did have a lovely dinner party which included a few heart macarons (because i like me some hearts) and a sparkly tiger for chinese new years hanging in our window and lots of laughs and wine and the relax of being with good friends …

  12. March 2, 2010 7:17 pm

    oh i loved this post! and i love v day too:)

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