Starting Over

Discovering myself, my family and friends in a foreign land, second time around

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First Valentine

Valentines day cake

I am completely lost. Its Valentine’s day today and I have no plans. Don’t get me wrong, I have a date but no plans for THE DAY. There are enough helpful hints in the print and digital media about the obvious and the subtle ways in which to impress your date on this most romantic day of the year.  But nothing I have read so far seems remotely right. You see, this is my first Valentine day with my new husband.

In my teens, I considered the notion of devoting an entire day (and perhaps a month’s wages) to celebrating togetherness in a couple to be romantic. In later years, the pragmatic me regarded the day as a contrived excuse to atone for all the mishaps of the year. After my divorce, the cynical me dismissed the idea entirely as a commercial exercise fueling materialism.  But now as I anticipate the day with my spouse, I wonder which of those selves that I have evolved into over the years will dominate.

A part of me wants to do something special. Mark the day in some way. Dinner for two sounds perfect, but what about the kids? Breakfast in bed? But its a weekday! A gift perhaps? Too trite. Flowers? Too cute. Chocolates? Too sweet. A night at the Ritz? Too expensive. A party? Too crowded for our taste. What then? All of the above symbolize the public celebration of love between a man and woman. And falling short on these socially acceptable displayed modes seems to be huge personal failure of some sort.

I am still looking for ideas that don’t fit traditional expectations but will communicate my feelings for the wonderful man who is now my husband. Is it the little girl in me enamored by prince charming who wants to ensure a happily ever after second time around? Is it the hopeful teenager scouring the net for love poems? Or the young woman who wished she had a secret admirer who is looking for the perfect gift?

I am not sure what my husband expects. We have both been married before. At our age, we have had our share of shattered dreams and heartbreaks and survived them sufficiently intact to try again. It doesn’t help that we belong to a generation in India who were brought up in stable families but have witnessed the collapse of this structure in our own generation. There are no relevant role models to rebuild a happy family with a second spouse and step-children involved. To add to the mix, we chose to move to another country to start over.

Life sure is interesting. Having always been a working woman, I am struggling with the unfamiliar tag of a home maker. I am trying on the identity of a wife and mother to two girls. My husband has taken up a job with a different work culture. The girls hitherto used to being an only child and the center of their respective families universe are now wrestling with the reality of having a sibling at home and new friends in a school in a foreign country. As we all hobble along alternating between harmony and frustration, the best we can do as a couple is to hold on to each other while we figure out our way as a family.

The only certainty is that things will change. We will get more comfortable together, the girls will grow into young women and seek their own future and we will watch them soar. It will be just the two of us at home, me reading a book, him watching sports on TV. It will be two for dinner. Breakfast in bed won’t be so hard to organize. We will go on holidays without too much advance planning. We will hold hands as we make two sets of footprints in the white sand of an exotic beach.

Maybe fairy tales do come true. In life as in the story, there comes an opportunity to walk into the sunset with the person you love. It doesn’t matter if the chance comes second time around.  And to honor this prospect, I want to do something special for my husband to acknowledge Cupid and his errant arrow that struck us.  On this, our first Valentine’s day as a couple, it is not the worldly-wise woman who knows that the road traveled alone is harder who wants to appreciate her fellow traveller but the eternal optimist in me who seeks to express her gratitude for each day we have together.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my dear!