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Fri, Dec. 13

Balloons, bears and the biggest love day of the year

Well, I made it through another Valentine's Day. Nothing like experiencing a near massacre on an annual basis.

This year, like every other year, I wanted to do something different for my husband on February 14th. But every year it's the same story: what do I get for a guy?

We've been together long enough that I'm running out of ideas. I've done the unique cards, Valentine boxer shorts, suggestive little coupon books and romantic nights away from the kids. But the field of gift giving possibilities is narrowing.

What makes this doubly hard is that my husband is very creative. Come Valentine's Day, he has no problem proving it. So we have this unrequited competition between us. I find myself harboring the competitive spirit of an Olympic athlete right around 6 p.m. on February 13.

As usual, this year I'm trying to be spectacular. Of course, at this point, a beer and two straws sounds pretty impressive. After sitting home pondering my dilemma for hours, trying to come up with a creative way to say "I love you" to the most important person in my life, I'm ready to file for divorce. I think to myself, "How far do I have to go to prove to this guy that care about him?" After all, I married him, didn't I? Had kids with him. Hey, I even wash his underwear and listen quietly while he snores out "Bolero" in his sleep. Why then, do I have to endure the torture Valentine's Day? And then the thought hits me, "He probably has got something really great planned for me."

The race is on.

When it comes to romance I'm pretty easy to please, although my husband never settles for the mundane. Send me flowers. I love the smell of flowers. Combine it with a bottle of wine and I'm talking about it for the next six months. But getting something for my husband is a whole different story.

That he's a guy is bad enough. To make matters worse, my husband is a manly kind of man. At least, that's what he wants the guys to think. He's a fireman. And firemen don't get cutesy little deliveries at the fire station. You may as well tattoo the words "I'm a sissy" across his forehead and send him to work in a tutu.

So, if I have something delivered, it has to be good. And, having only done that once before in our history together, I'm determined that this year, he's getting his gift in front of the usual band of good-natured hoodlums at the firehouse. It's the last thing he would expect.

This decision poses two major problems. First, there aren't many businesses that deliver to Mayer. Second, of those few businesses, I'm not sure there would be a product that would apply to Valentine's Day. As far as I know, the only business that still delivers is the exterminator and I'm not sure the guys at the fire station would appreciate the surprise.

The difficulty intensifies. In a quandary, I head for the mall. I find a nice little store where they have a vast collection of balloons, flowers, candy and stuffed bears. The scent in the air overwhelms me and I'm tempted to buy myself a dozen roses. No, I have to be strong. I count to 10.

Not finding what I'm looking for, I go to the next store, where I find more balloons, flowers, candy and stuffed bears. After the fourth stop, I discover that Valentine's Day really is a chick's holiday and I shouldn't even be here. The fact becomes very clear when I realize I'm the only female in a sea of a dozen or so men sifting through the same merchandise I am - and they aren't having a problem finding something!

In desperation, I find myself picking the brain of some poor sales clerk who really has no idea what to get her own Valentine, let alone mine. "Well," she says, "Why don't you get him a rose." A rose. . .hmmmm. I guess I was looking for more substance out of an individual entrusted to run the store on the biggest "love day" of the year.

Recognizing my disappointment, she volunteers that she doesn't get her husband anything - but he does bring her flowers. Whoa! How did she convince him of that one? Valentine's Day is for girls only? It's like having two birthdays a year.

In a state of hopelessness, I make my way back to the car. I throw in the packages - a sweater for me, two pairs of knee socks for me, and a stomach ache from an oversized cinnamon roll - but no Valentine's gift.

But hey, some of the best floral departments are in the grocery store. I figure I need milk, a can of soup and a leaf of lettuce so I decide to go grocery shopping. Just inside the door I spy the floral department. Seizing the opportunity, I rummage through all the generic gifts; balloons, flowers, candy and stuffed bears. It all screams the same thing. They may as well sell shirts that say "My wife went Valentine's Day shopping and all I got was this stupid T-shirt."

Losing hope and creativity, I'm ready to concede that my husband is indeed the most creative. But then I think, "He's probably out looking for my gift right now. I really have to make this good." And then the idea hits me. It's perfect.

So, I survived another Valentine's day. I succeed in selecting the foolproof gift. Who would have thought a can of beer with two straws (among other things) in a balloon basket would have gone over so well. The guys didn't laugh. . .they just smiled. My husband wasn't embarrassed and I didn't exceed my budget, even though I bought a sweater and two pairs of socks. As far as who won the competition, it ended like it does every year. We tied. But then, does it matter?

Now I can relax. At least until next month when our anniversary rolls around.

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