I grab my wallet, keys and phone and toss them in my shopping tote. I am only bringing 2 bags inside, to discourage me from purchasing more than what I need.
“No time for samples either,” I forcefully tell myself.
The dashboard clock reads 3.26pm.
I have 14 minutes to get in and out of Trader Joe’s. This will give me just enough time to bake muffins for my Kindergartner’s Valentine’s Day party tomorrow, shower, eat and make it to the kids’ learning showcase at school.
While exiting my car, I notice the hubbub of cars and pedestrians in the parking lot but make an assumption that I will soon realize is naive and erroneous-
“I guess I’m not the only one prepping for a school party tomorrow.”
Attempting to stay mission-focused, I avoid grabbing a shopping cart.
I am walking through the sliding double doors when a makeshift wall of red catches my eye and slows me down. There’s a crowd of men hovering in front of this bright spectacle, too. Curious, I stop to peek through the space in between their bodies to see what’s going on:
A sign reads – Red Rose Bouquets, $13.99 each
“These were $7.99 a week ago. What a rip off,” is my knee jerk reaction. I prepare to bolt, incensed at the price gouging.
Yet, I pause.
It was like an old memory or dormant habit had awoken in that moment. I had forgotten about this part of Valentine’s Day – scrambling to get a card, running out for chocolates, men frantically grabbing flowers. I had forgotten the part about showing the person you live your life with that you care (and to publicly show others around that loved one that you care). I always hated the showy aspect, but not enough to let him off the hook.
The red rose wall is a subtle reminder about how different my life is now. It shows how long out of coupleship I have been.
Instead of love, romance and whatever else others do on February 14th, my only association is with baking projects for school parties now.
I want to indulge myself in this old, familiar feeling a little more. What was my life was for so many years. I side step to the door’s edge and continue to watch – no, stare at- how these men select the perfect stems for their mates. Is it based on size? Freshness? Color? I think about which one he would have selected for me. I quickly stop myself from going that route. It has been many years since we celebrated a Valentine’s Day together, though I can’t accurately estimate the number in this moment.
Standing at the door’s edge, I am a Valentine’s sleuth. I can piece together the kind of evening these men are planning with their mates tomorrow based on what’s in the cart. A bottle of wine and some fresh ingredients signal a dinner will be made. A card and milk tell me that the flowers are the gift.
I stop myself again. My imagination in this department only adds to a sense of sadness, dead dreams and loneliness.
I pause and sigh.
Soon, a crack of a smile follows.
“It is good to be in touch with this part of life,” I affirm.
I am grateful to be reminded about the sentiment behind Valentine’s Day and all that comes with it – the scramble for gifts, the hurriedly written cards, the high expectations, the opportunity to express love for those around you. They are all packaged together. It is not just about school parties. It is also about love. It feels good to recognize that it is something I desire in my life.
And flowers, too.
Unlike before, I am firm in knowing that I don’t need to wait around for anyone to give them to me.
“If I want flowers for Valentine’s Day, I’ll buy them for myself,” I proclaim.
Emboldened, I swing towards to non-red flower section and carefully select 2 bouquets, whose price I am certain was not boosted ahead of Valentine’s Day.
I head to the sign labeled – Assorted mix, $3.99 each
I treat myself by choosing 2 bunches – the biggest, brightest, freshest buds I can find (shown in the photo above).
“These will look beautiful in my home, and the kids will love them,” I think as I place them into my bag and quickly scoot towards the produce aisle.
Partnered or not, I know that I am more similar than not to those married men buying red roses. For we are united in our scrambling to get out of Trader Joe’s and bring our purchases to those whom we love the most. Myself, included.