Valentine’s Day is a touchy
subject with me. It is not that my husband forgets to honor our love on that
day. In fact, he is better at remembering Valentine’s Day than he is at
remembering our anniversary. Perhaps I should consider making our anniversary
a National Hallmark holiday with lots of billboards and other advertising to
help the poor guy recall the day we became husband and wife. No matter. We
have Cupid’s celebration for which he can ramp up his adoration for me.
The reason for my apprehension about mid-February’s day of romance is quite
simple: plants. It was a linguistic misunderstanding, a cross-cultural faux
pas that has stuck in my mind for over a decade. You see, my husband is
German, and in the beginning of our relationship, my German wasn’t that
As February 14th neared that first year of our courtship, I suggested to my
then boyfriend that Americans celebrate the holiday with flowers. It would be
useful if he would remember that. I really thought I had gotten through to
him. Without belabouring the point, I would occasionally point out the red
hearts and bow and arrow decorations that ornately hung in the shop windows.
I would then reiterate my love for flowers and how special a woman feels when
she receives them.
Had I been a bit more vigilant in my undertaking, the holiday wouldn’t have
turned out as it did. The German word Blumen means both flowers and plants.
As I continually mentioned my interest in Blumen, my husband, a biologist by
trade, had nodded with great understanding. After many other language
barriers had been crossed, it seemed as if I were finally talking his lingo.
As Valentine’s Day arrived, my excited boyfriend presented me with a spider
plant wrapped in light green cellophane. You know which kind of plant I mean:
the unkillable kind that has lots of babies, the kind that would even survive
while you’re away on your six-week African safari.
In that moment, I couldn’t help but show my disappointment.
"Flowers! I meant flowers!" I said in English to him in a rather
unkind, obnoxious manner. For a moment, it appeared as if he were going to
snatch the plant away from me. I peered down at the lovely wrapping job that
he had so painstakingly done and smiled.
"But I suppose plants last longer, huh?" I placed the plant on our
I chose to look at our first Valentine’s Day this way: he thinks our love
will result in an unshakeable marriage with lots of kids. After all, isn’t
that what a spider plant symbolizes?
We now have two children, and we have been married ten years. While our
spider plant did not survive our multiple moves, the lesson that it brought
us has remained. Perhaps my husband knew what I meant all along, and he chose
a different path for our love, one which lasts for more than just one day in
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, American author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting
Stories and Other Stuff, lives near Munich, Germany, with her husband and two
children. When she isn’t writing, leading toddler playgroups or wiping up
messes, she prefers to frolick with her family in the Bavarian countryside.
Visit her Web site: www.diaryofamother.com.
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