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Turning holidays into a competition

I won at Valentine’s Day.

Every holiday, the Long Suffering Husband and I make a pact not to go overboard. We’re old, we’ve been together for 20 years and I don’t need anything else cluttering up the house, especially if it is something that needs dusting. I hate to dust. Giving me something that needs dusting is like giving me a chore that lasts the life of the object.

Plus, we’ve gotten to a place where we realize it’s the everyday kindnesses that are the glue that keeps our relationship together, not big, showy gifts. I’d rather have that daily lunch phone call than flowers that wither and die. Flowers are nice, too, but if it was an either or, I prefer daily contact.

So, given our collective age and wisdom — don’t laugh, it’s rude, even if it is accurate — we are not supposed to buy each other gifts. We set aside an afternoon to spend time together.

We have a pact, but he violates it every year.

“Just one small thing,” he will say, handing me a box of candy. Or “it’s only a card, we didn’t say we weren’t doing cards.”

Since I improbably fall for this every single year, I am caught empty-handed and flat-footed. How do I believe him every year? I spend a lot of time saying, “we’re really not buying gifts this year, right?” and “you’re not going to say one thing and do the other?” and I should just assume that he’s buying something.

This year, I didn’t fall for the lies. I bought a card and chocolate. OK, this was mostly because I took Grandmama to the doctor’s office, then the pharmacy, and I remembered Valentine’s Day because there was a giant pink-and-red, hearts-and-flowers display right as you walked in the door.

“Oh,” I said. “That’s right — Valentine’s Day is this week. I should get LSH a card.”

Grandmama waded in and generously allowed me a choice of five. Then, she insisted that I get LSH — and the children — candy.

I hid the LSH’s gifts in the car the night before — using the very clever ruse that the children had left the dome light on in my car, entirely believable, trust me — and waited. The next morning, there was the usual chaos as everyone prepared for the day.

The LSH went out to scrape the car windows and I practically cackled with relish.

He came back inside, lifted an eyebrow, smiled and said, “I thought we weren’t buying each other gifts this year?”

I smiled, elated with my triumph. Valentine’s Day came without a present (for me). Boom! Finally! I am the one who … violated our pact … after I pressed the LSH not to do that same thing.

Damn. But … I won … I guess?

“Well, I guess it’s alright if you get me something small,” I said.

Flowers and phone calls: I’ll take them both.

(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)

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