“And what’s romance? Usually, a nice little tale where you have everything as you like it, where rain never wets your jacket and gnats never bite your nose, and it’s always daisy-time.” – D.H. Lawrence
Three years, three beating hearts – that is what my husband and I celebrated yesterday afternoon. Was it romantic? Well, I did not follow a path of rose petals to a candlelit bedroom, I wasn’t greeted with an anniversary poem written with the blunt end of my husband’s construction pencil, nor did we visit the closest honeymooning destination and drink champagne in a heart-shaped tub. But, was it romantic..?
What is romance? Somewhere, in some distant past, we had let someone decide that for us. Perhaps the rules of Cappellanus, coding chivalry and courtly love during the medieval period, continue to haunt our perceptions of what romantic love is today. The romance protocol is so firmly entrenched in our society that we have lost all sense of what truly warms our hearts, what illuminates our souls. Our moments of happiness are contaminated by the social expectations of what happiness is, what romance is, what love is.
Husband and I had been discussing this third anniversary for quite some time before the actual day. We realized that this would be our last before we became three and were trying to decide how to make the day most memorable. In the past, we had taken trips down south or planned weekend getaways to wine country, or headed north to the serenity of a cabin in the woods. 8.5 months pregnant, flying was out of the question and longer road trips were also questionable. Anything that suggested a possible abundance of mosquitoes instantly made me itch and as I have been suffering from a maddening insomnia over the past month, I wasn’t even sure that I cared to sleep anywhere where I wasn’t guaranteed a pillow-laden bed fit for a sultan. The day finally arrived and with plans still tentative, husband decided to go to work in the morning and reserve the afternoon for our celebration of ‘threes’ over dinner. I spent my morning shopping with a close friend and it was there that the conversation of romance arose. She was sighing over the romance deficiency in her relationship, the absence of flowers, the last-minute gift purchases, the lack of thoughtfulness… I responded by admitting a decline in the same department soon after P and I had married. On our first Valentine’s Day, only boyfriend-girlfriend, I told her about how he sent me a hundred roses to the office that I had to wheel to my car on a dolly. For our second, already engaged, he surprised me by obtaining the keys to our new condo before our move-in date and led me in to our empty candle-lit apartment and cooked dinner. “And for the third?” my friend asked. “We were already married.” I responded.
Some would say – well, the prize is already in the bag.
But perhaps it’s something else… perhaps it’s simply that we have come to know each other at a more genuine level and the romance routine is no longer necessary. Perhaps the universal code for romance is merely the pair of training wheels applied to the real thing – once we’re comfortable with the ride and have gained stability in our relationships, we are ready to take control of the handlebars without the aid to freely take whichever turn, at whichever speed makes us happy.
As my friend and I were finishing up our shopping, I get a phone call from P asking me how old the pineapple in the fridge was. I had cut it up that morning and assured him there was nothing wrong with it (husband has a bit of a bacteria phobia). He told me he had dropped in at home for a couple minutes and was feeling sick after snacking on it. I was to check if it didn’t perhaps have a funny stench once I got home. Upon my return, I went to the fridge and opened the container with the suspicious pineapple, expecting a miasma to invade my nostrils in the next few seconds. There, between the chunks of lush, perfectly fragrant fruit, sat a white ring box, stained in the sweet yellow juices of its unnatural habitat. Wide-eyed, I held my breath as I opened the box to find the most beautiful ring – a smoky topaz – my birth stone encrusted with diamonds. I called husband right away – “Happy Anniversary!” he answered.
That evening, we spent our anniversary with a visit to the neighborhood of our first home together, a real stroll down memory lane. We retraced the paths of the walks we used to take together when we were engaged, reliving the excited conversations about our future wedding, our goals, our first baby. Hand in hand, with the Toronto skyline adorning the horizon on the lake, we made it from our most frequented resto in the area to the white bridge and back – about a 20 minute waddle before I started hearing pregnancy bells and husband was out of breath. Sometimes a visit to happy memories can be more charming than making new ones.
“Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.” – Amanda Cross
With all the scripts available to us on how to recreate the perfect Romeo and Juliet scene, and with all the occasions to which Hallmark so kindly reminds us to apply those “chocolate and roses” scenarios, romance soon begins to lose its luster. Usually it’s those unplanned, unexpected moments that are not marked on our calendars that enchant us the most. And even when they are rare, the instances that we should treasure, that adorn our memories the most, are those that are unique to our relationships, those that remind us why we are with whom we are. Husband may rarely be a Romeo… but I would not trade anyone for the man who calls me once every two hours since we started dating just to hear my voice; who upon learning that we were expecting, popped two skylights into our kitchen during the severe winter to bring more sunlight into the house and thaw my blue moods; whose smile, reflecting his kindness and affection, is sweeter than a midnight serenade.