A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


I had a great idea last Valentine’s Day.

This is significant because great ideas – especially of the sweet, sensitive, romantic variety – are about as rare for me as losing playoff football games is for the New England Patriots (and if you doubt that just ask yourself: how many writers would use a sports metaphor to open a Valentine’s Day column?).

But this idea, honestly, was inspired.

You see, there’s this wonderful restaurant in town that overlooks the very building in which Anita and I were married.  Not only is the view spectacular – especially at night, when the lights are glowing and there’s a dusting of snow – but the food is phenomenal.  It is elegant food, which pleases Anita, and it is served buffet style, which pleases me.  And – here’s the really good part – it’s expensive enough that the meal can legally be considered both a date AND a gift.

See what I mean?  What a great idea!

I was so pleased with myself that as soon as the idea popped into my brain I immediately called the restaurant to make a reservation.

“Excuse me?” the receptionist asked when I told her my plan.

“I would like to make a reservation for two for tomorrow,” I repeated.  “About 7-ish?”

I could hear the unmistakable sound of laughter in the background.

“Sir,” she said, “we’ve been completely booked for Valentine’s Day since mid-January.”

“Oh, I see,” I said.  It was hard to believe that my great idea had been stolen by so many others – before I even had it.  “Well, how about tonight then?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said, which would have been easier to believe if she hadn’t been giggling while she said it, “we’re full tonight too.”

OK, I thought, Plan B.  There is another restaurant in town that Anita and I had talked about trying.  I had never seen it crowded at all.  It didn’t have the romantic view, but it was a little more expensive, so the date/gift rule still applied.  It would work out just fine.

Anita was genuinely pleased when I announced our destination the following evening.

“I’ve wanted to try this place,” she said, excitedly.

“Yes,” I said smugly, “I know.”

I was relieved to see a few empty tables as we arrived.

“Do you have a reservation?” the hostess asked as we approached.

“Well, no,” I said.  “Thankfully, it doesn’t look like we need one.”

“Those tables are reserved,” she said.  “We’re fully booked tonight.  Sorry.”

Suddenly my great idea was looking less and less great.  We tried several restaurants, encountering the same answer each time.  To her everlasting credit, Anita didn’t complain – not even once, not even a little.  We finally settled on a little café that was good, but nothing special.  We were seated back by the kitchen.  It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for the evening.

And yet, when I look back on last Valentine’s Day, I smile – not because of my inept attempt to do something nice, but because of the generous gifts Anita gave me: acceptance, understanding, compassion and love.  She acknowledged my feeble attempts to please her.  She sympathized with my frustration.  She laughed – and helped me to laugh – as the situation grew more and more ridiculous.  She claimed to enjoy the meager meal I finally provided.  And she said – and really seemed to believe it – that just being together on Valentine’s Day was enough.

Turns out the only truly great idea I’ve ever had was marrying her.

That, and calling to make reservations for THIS Valentine’s Day on Jan. 3.

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— © Joseph Walker

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