Rustic romance

Last Valentine’s Day, I didn’t get a card, flowers or chocolates. I did get a Hallmark moment though, in the form of a purchase and sales agreement. A nice young couple appeared almost like magic, wanting to build a future in our old house. They were ready to move in as soon as Tom’s school year ended and Rangeley mud season receded enough for us to drive a U-Haul with all our belongings up over the Height of Land,  down the Bemis track, and up the Upper Dam trail. Two dreams took flight that day we signed papers with our buyers. Theirs was about youth and new beginnings, about graduating from an apartment to a mortgage and a backyard, about breathing life back into a well-worn house. Ours was about staying young at heart, about stepping away from two houses into our one true home, about breathing a big sigh of gratitude that life by the lake was no longer happening “maybe sometime” but soon. No doubt both of us couples drank a special bottle of Valentine’s Day wine that night—excited and more than a tiny bit scared by our new-found fortune.

This year, even though it’s the first Valentine’s Day of our new life, we won’t need to celebrate with chocolates, flowers or over-priced cards filled with someone else’s words. We say the words all the time for free and make our own version of the hand-holding Hallmark couple staring off into the sunset. This year, we’ll breathe an even bigger sigh of gratitude and relief that we’re here, moved in, and figuring out that February in Rangeley is not only feasible, but fun. We do have a romantic evening planned, featuring something so special it makes my heart flutter: We are going out to eat! Out, as in away, down the trail, into town. Not for our typical night out either, which usually happens because we’re still in town and it’s almost suppertime and we know we’ll be too hungry to put away our groceries if we don’t cram in a burger. This Valentine’s Day, we’ll be enjoying a breathtaking Rangeley tableside view, a gourmet menu and some special wine with our new BFFs from the sportsmen’s club. We can do the “just you and me by candlelight” thing any night of the year. But nothing says “I love you” out here in February better than getting together with other like-minded souls over some prime rib and chocolate moose (er…I mean mousse). I already have two possible date night red sweaters picked out. One is a soft, clingy turtleneck. The other is an Icelandic cable knit good for 10 below zero.

After 35 years of Valentines, I’m happy to say the romance is still strong. I can’t imagine growing old in my Adirondack chair next to anyone other than Tom. But wisdom and a rural lifestyle have changed my definition of true romance. Unlike the TV commercial women, I don’t yearn for Tom to give me diamonds showing me his open heart or the shape of his arms muckled around me. He’s given me plenty of jewelry, and probably would have given me more if I hadn’t asked “Could I be going on a Caribbean vacation with what this cost?” each time he handed me an expensive-looking box. We did purchase ourselves a special treat this year, one that’s sure to keep the warmth in our relationship far longer than diamonds or a trip to the tropics. We’ll be anticipating it all during our nice dinner, the ride home, and our rush upstairs to get into bed. We bought each other a heated, his-and-hers, dual control mattress cover! My core body temp spikes just thinking about it.

Speaking of heat, I nearly forgot it was Valentine’s Day until I walked by the magazine display in the IGA. All the issues not plastered with snow machines or rabbit dogs shouted out: “Do you want the fire back in your marriage?” or “What’s your sizzle factor?” I just smiled serenely and walked past in my quest for produce that had as much spunk as those titles. When it comes to fire, my husband could teach those Madison Avenue women a thing or two, I figure. He’s kept one burning for me all night—and all through the day—since November. It may not generate the thigh-radiating, breast-searing heat that’s the stuff of romance novels. But, in my book, a stoked wood stove tells me I’m cherished like nothing else.

I know my version of sparks flying isn’t what sells Valentines. But, it sure keeps me happy at home, cleaved to my husband’s side. A cozy wood stove, toasty toes snuggled up in bed—it’s the little stuff that counts, right ladies? Plus real romance lingers throughout the year. Flowers die and chocolates evaporate. Things like trapping mice and spraying the hornet’s nest out by the clothesline, now those are sweet, enduring gestures that remind me why I married him. And I want to tell you, when he gets his drill out and promises to hang up new towel racks, I swoon!

Not to seem sexist to my guy readers, I must say that I know romance goes both ways. I may only bring a couple logs in from the wood pile now and again, but I do my part to make sure Tom knows he’s appreciated. His favorite gesture—a small thing for me, but a biggie for him—is when I bake him a blueberry pie. Yeah baby, homemade wild Maine blueberry pie—he loves it better than, well…anything. Also, for example, last fall I devoted myself to figuring out how to clean his favorite fishing hat. When I handed it back to him looking as good as the day he first put it on, I’m pretty sure his knees buckled.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! May you all be cherished.

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