So Long, and Thanks for all the Valentines
During the early 1990s I had a lady friend with whom I was close enough to
exclusively share a few years of my life. An interior decorator lady who grew up in the same town and entirely different social strata than I did.
I first remember noticing her in the fifth grade, and from then until the time I left that burg as a high-schooler, I don’t believe she ever spoke to me. She was upper crust and I was somewhere down there below the lower crust.
Anyway, 30-35 years later we spent a few years together seeing one another every day and night. She had a lot of strong points, beautiful woman, smart, and well-intentioned. I’d mentioned to her once that it used to really hurt my feelings in school on Valentine’s Day. I hated it, all those kids getting valentines from one another and I didn’t get any.
Valentine’s Day, maybe 1993, ’94, I headed down to her house after work. Came in the door and fell over. She’d decorated the house with valentines, fed me a piece of cake shaped like a valentine, and handed me a box shaped like a valentine wrapped. Made me open it.
Crazy woman had filled that box with old-timey valentines like were around when we were kids…… full, chock full, that box was, with valentines claiming to be from kids we went to school with, all addressed to the kid I used to be …… the lower-class scum of yesteryear. Crazy stuff.
I’ve cried maybe twice during my adulthood, but for some reason I was having to hold back tears on that one. But that isn’t why I’m writing this blog entry. I just wanted to preface the next thing with that one, so you’d understand she wasn’t a bad person underneath everything.
Anyway, she had two habits I found particularly irritating, aside from being miserable and liking to spread it around, toward the end of our relationship. She pronounced the “G” in guacamole. “Gwakamohlee.” Drove me nuts. Knew better, but maybe couldn’t remember, maybe didn’t care.
Secondly, she had this thing I figure came from being upper- crust as a kid.
“You find someone to work on the roof?” I might ask.
“Oh yes,” she might warble. ” Hired this little Mexican man.”
When I see the guy, he ain’t little. He’s 240 pounds. But he is Hispanic.
“Oh!” she might say. “I hired this little Indian woman to do some bead work for me.” Turned out the little Indian woman was taller than she was and weighed in heavier than the roof repair man.
You get the picture. Non-Anglo-Saxons were little, particularly if they were hired to do something.
No, the lady wasn’t a bigot, precisely. She wouldn’t sit still for racial slurs unless they were subtle, oblique, or less so, but about Navajo folks, whom she generally disliked. She conveyed the impression instead, that she found little men who did repairs to the plumbing so cute, so lovable, so adorable and quaint. Something akin to looking through the big end of a telescope at them standing there so tiny doing their assigned jobs.
When we parted company after a few years it wasn’t pleasant, but I learned a lot about myself from her, once she began explaining what all was wrong with me. It was worth a lengthy listen because she probably knew me as well as anyone ever has.
After I decided it was over I continued talking to her every night on the telephone for about a month, an hour-or-so per night, determined to listen carefully and consider everything ugly she could think of to say about me without any argument. She mightn’t be right, or she might be right but about something I didn’t want to change, or she might be right and I might want to change it.
But we don’t get many opportunities in this life to have someone who knows us well go into loving detail explaining every flaw and wart, everything we haven’t noticed about ourselves. There aren’t any little people a person could hire to do that.
Eventually I came to realize she was enjoying those protracted nightly diatribes more than was possibly good for her. She’d begun repeating herself, also. So I told her it was over.
I mostly remember her for the valentine side. The going up big was worth the coming down little.