# 5 – Hallmark Cards

My husband and I have been together almost eight years. In that time, we have not exchanged Valentines cards or any other romantic sentiment that you can purchase at your local drugstore, expensive stationery store, Hallmark etc. I gave him one birthday card when he turned the big 50 because the picture was cute; an illustration of a little boy blowing out the candles for his 5th birthday.   I didn’t write anything in it.

I am of the strong belief that every day is love day in our house. My friends have made fun of me because “you sound like a guy who doesn’t want to buy his girlfriends a gift”.

I don’t want Matt spending money on roses or flowers on days when the markup is double or triple the regular price. I’m also not one to go out to dinner on said occasions either.

We are practical people who choose to show our love, respect and admiration with our daily actions.

  •  A good morning text letting each other know we’ve made it to work, that now includes “Bebe has been dropped off” or “Bebe has been picked up”.
  • A kiss before I leave for work, a kiss when he comes home, a kiss before bed. We still text “I love you” throughout the day.
  • He does the laundry, cleans the kitchen, vacuums the floors and yard work. I clean the bathrooms, living room, bedrooms and Swiffer the floors.
  • He lets me sleep late most weekends.
  • He takes my car to get oil changes
  • I cook

Matt has always been generous with me. It was easier for him to surprise me with presents when I lived alone in a sparse apartment. Our first Christmas he spoiled me with a sound system, a television and PJ Salvage pajamas.  I was pretty broke from my divorce and I didn’t have much money, I got him socks and a bike helmet.

Once we moved in together and my financial situation improved, we didn’t and still don’t do much in the way of gift giving to each other. Our idea of a perfect Valentine or birthday gift is to drive out of the city and going for a hike.  This year, our Valentines present to each other is the bathrooms remodel and of course, our baby.

***

By the end of the relationship with the ex I had collected two banker’s boxes worth of cards. They are sorted in folders by the years we were together and organized by month in each folder. The ex gave me two sometimes three or four cards for every occasion. New Years, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, my birthday, Halloween & Christmas. Each card contained a manifesto of his love for me and I reciprocated in kind. At first out of giddiness and then out of obligation. He would spend hours shopping for the perfect cards and additional time writing bad poetry and long letters. Reading these love notes became exhausting because there’s only so many ways you can say I love you when you think you’re a good writer but in reality your writing is full of adverbs and words you looked up in the thesaurus. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so taxing if he had treated me better.

As the years went on, the cards were often riddled with “I’m sorry for [fill in the blank]” followed by his justification and then blaming me for his behavior. Towards the end, I stopped giving him cards and stopped reading his cards.

After the divorce, I couldn’t throw them out. The boxes are somewhere in my garage. I’ve often toyed with the idea of stringing them together and making an exhibit out of them. I have fantasized about curating other love notes from abusive relationships and sending them out on a tour; Boxes full of love letters, remains of an abusive relationship.

We will be remodeling the garage in the next year. I don’t know what I will do with the cards when I come across them. I have no interest in reading them, I don’t want my daughter to find them.

***

We spent Valentines Day weekend shopping for tiles and fixtures for one of the bathrooms we are remodeling. This should have been done before the job started and not in the demolition phase. Little did we know that if you want nice things you can’t just go to Lowes or Home Depot and pick out what you want and have it delivered the same day. They don’t stock the good stuff advertised on their website so you have to order it without looking at it and hope what you get is up to par with what you saw online.  We took a day off from work, left the baby in daycare and went to the designer showrooms, they also don’t stock merchandise, but you can look at the floor samples and order from the manufacturer. Everything I pointed at took at least three weeks and was way over my budget. I asked for the local manufacturers, it still would take seven to ten days but the price was much cheaper and delivery was free.

Matt and I didn’t agree on a lot of things but we found a middle ground and are happy with what we purchased.

***

A house remodel, a move, having a baby are all things that can put stress on a relationship, especially if said relationship is rocky to begin with. I moved twice with the ex and each move nearly killed me. Matt helped me move from my first apartment post-divorce and we’ve moved twice in the time we’ve been together. While moving is stressful for me, having Matt by my side made me less anxious and it was nice to cuddle with him in our new home. We didn’t argue while we packed, our relationship didn’t suffer, unlike the moves with my ex.

The bathroom remodel came about because a local contractor we both liked became available at the last minute. The house was a mess, I was at my wit’s end trying to keep the house clean and then life threw a curb ball at me with the remodel literally taking place the day after I posted my essay about the reguero in my house. I had no time to prepare and I said “fuck it, I give up, I’m not in control. Once this remodel is done I will hire someone to clean the house.”

We are almost done with bathroom number one and will be moving on to bathroom number two sometime next week. We will be using this three day weekend to shop for bathroom fixtures, tiles and a vanity for the master bathroom. It was not an ideal way to spend Valentines Day but I’m going with the flow.

Having a supportive partner is the only way a control freak like me can function when life interferes with my plans. The best present Matt has given me is his support in everything from my writing to motherhood to a house remodel. I don’t need cards, I don’t need fancy dinners or  things, I can get those myself if I want to. The security of living with someone who has your back is to me, the most generous and priceless gift one person can give to another.

To be Continued.

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