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The Valentine’s Day Gift

February 13, 2010

Standing in line at the gas station I overheard a conversation where the girl with the short brown hair was telling the girl with the long brown hair her thoughts on Valentine’s Day and I started to think about what reminded me most of this holiday celebrating love. The first things that flew through my mind were the usual chocolates, the color red, the little candy hearts with the too-cute sayings on them, and exchanging Valentine’s Day cards in the 8th grade with everyone but my classmate Lisa Klaeger. Lisa was the only girl my 13-year-old eyes would see for an entire year and she moved me enough to sing Tommy James and the Shondells’ I Think We’re Alone Now silently in my head just for her every time I saw her. Then I remembered Linda and realized what really reminds me of Valentine’s Day is boomboxes. You remember boomboxes? Those big plastic clunkers, about two feet long, maybe 10” thick, portable with a heavy plastic handle? An AM/FM radio and a cassette player and maybe a three channel equalizer? Like an mp3 player today only bigger. Much bigger. And heavier. And not as portable.

It was 1985 and it was our first Valentine’s Day together. Me and Linda. We’d been seeing each other for about three months and I wanted the day to be nice. I wanted the gift to be nice. In my naïve enthusiasm I wanted everything to be perfect, and while I trusted that we’d enjoy the day, I was clueless as to what to buy her as a gift and I was sure I was going to ruin everything by making the wrong decision. A natural worrier, I worried about something like clothing as sending the message I didn’t like her taste in clothes; intimate clothing as being too intimate; making dinner as something worse than sickeningly romantic because even though I wasn’t sure if anything could truly be “sickeningly” romantic, I couldn’t cook.

Our first Valentine’s Day and as I said, it had to be perfect. Not just good. Not just thoughtful. It had to be everything. And for the day to be everything, I needed that one good gift. Not just any good gift, this first Valentine’s Day gift had to be perfect. It had to be “The Gift”. I was fighting my uneasiness about making a mistake and having the first major gift of our relationship appearing as if I were either looking to rush into something, or trying to force something, or trying to back away from something. I was smitten with Linda and while I didn’t know it at the time, I was close to being in love with her and I was trying to hedge my bets to cover all the bases so she couldn’t possibly misinterpret my meaning.

The end of January found me in a near panic, worrying about sending the wrong message with my gift choice and I was succeeding only in stressing myself more and more over the decision. February arrived and my apprehension grew as the day neared and I finally lit on the fact that since we both shared an interest in music – our first date was a Bobby and the Midnites show at First Avenue with Linda looking beautiful in an ankle length blue denim skirt with white tennis shoes over white ankle socks, a powder blue flowered blouse and red cheeks, the result of the warmth of the club or being with me I never figured out – what gift could possibly be a more perfect gift than music? Linda had recently moved into a new apartment and she didn’t own a stereo yet and while I couldn’t afford an actual home stereo for her – a nice component system with a 50 watt per channel receiver with separate treble and bass controls, direct-drive turntable with a manual tonearm and speakers reaching nearly three feet tall – what was wrong with something a little smaller like a boombox? The choice was thoughtful and practical, it filled a need, was wonderfully generic and didn’t put any pressure on either one of us. The light bulb over my head flashed bright that day and with a smile on my face and a weight lifted from my shoulders, I went out and bought a boombox. I bought “The Gift”. And I not only bought the boombox, I comparison shopped and bought a nice boombox. I gift wrapped the box. I bought a bow.

The day arrived and, apparently not one to worry about sending the wrong message, Linda bought me a shirt which was alright with me because “The Gift” was a hit. She loved it. We went shopping and bought cassette tapes for it and listened to them together. We played backgammon while the boombox played music. We sang as one. Two weeks later we turned up the volume on the boombox to cover up our fumbled and clumsy first attempts at lovemaking and we left it up as we became practiced over time. We took daytrips and the boombox serenaded us from the backseat of the car while sucking up a load of batteries.

Six months later, right around Labor Day, Linda said she loved me and life was good. She eventually moved in with me, bringing the boombox with her, and we were on a path. As life would have it, our path turned out to be less than perfect and seven years later she betrayed me and left, but that day, that first Valentine’s Day, that day was perfect and I wouldn’t trade anything, or change anything, if it meant I had to lose that day. I don’t remember now, 18 years after the fact, what happened to the “The Gift”. I don’t remember her taking it and it wasn’t there when she moved out, but that’s not important. Happy Valentine’s Day, Linda.

© 2010 by Michael Fishman

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