Because both our birthdays come in January, just after the major holidays, my wife and I have always had rather muted birthday celebrations. Because our wedding anniversary comes in September when the educational institutions both of us worked for all our lives are just gearing up for a new academic year, our anniversary celebrations have always been somewhat muted. This state of affairs has made other celebrations more important. Take the anniversary of the day we met, which happens to be May 5 and which I nearly always forget. Or take Valentine’s Day.
Several years ago on a cold February evening, I was walking home from work. I walked to and from work for years, always by the same route. This routine allowed me to fall into a state of reverie while walking. On this particular walk home, I recalled that my wife had complained of a corn on her foot. Why my wife’s corn intruded itself on my ambulatory reverie on that particular afternoon is a mystery, but it filled me with warm feelings toward her. After all, a corn can be very painful. I decided to vary my route just enough to drop into a drugstore and pick up some corn pads. I entered the drugstore and walked past aisles filled with bright red heart-shaped boxes of candy to ask the pharmacist what corn pads he recommended. Then I walked with him past large bright red heart-shaped Valentine cards to the shelf that had the corn pads. “Where is your corn?” he asked. “Oh, it’s not for me.” I said. “It’s for my wife. I think it’s on her big toe.”
The pharmacist showed me a pack of corn pads of various sizes in case I was wrong about the big toe. I thanked him and walked past a cosmetic counter with bath oils and special soaps wrapped in bright red Valentine gift-wrap to the cashier to pay for the corn pads. I waited my turn behind a long line of men with bright red heart-shaped boxes of candy, specially wrapped bath oils and special soaps, and large heart-shaped greeting cards. How pleased, I thought to myself, my wife would be to know that I had remembered she had a corn.
When I came in the door, I called out to my wife, “I have a surprise for you!” From the kitchen came the voice of a woman who was not in pain. “I have a surprise for you too!’
I came into the kitchen clutching the corn pads. She held up a beautiful sacher tort in the shape of a heart. “Happy Valentine’s day!” she said. “What’s my surprise?” She looked with great expectation at the package in my hand.
The synapses in my brain started firing and the aisles of bright red heart-shaped boxes of candy were played back to me in slow motion, taking on the meaning that had somehow eluded me.
I can’t remember exactly happened next, but there were tears.
To this day, the mere mention of Dr. Scholl’s has me checking the date.