A dear friend of mine mentioned after purchasing my recent book Sunnyside Up (Thank you very much by the way) that I although I have chapters on “Women”, “Love” and the like I didn’t have any stories about “Valentine’s Day”.
This oversight was not intentional I assure you.
I have nothing for or against Valentine’s Day.
I simply don’t have much of a point of reference about that day.
I can however tell you everything you never wanted to know about the massacre that took place in Chicago on that particular day known more today for love and romance than machinegun fire.
There was a time in my life when Valentine’s Day was a big deal
It was a “big deal” to me because I was a young impressionable college student and I was surrounded by a bevy of teenage beauties in college and Valentine’s Day was a “Big Deal” to them.
Get the picture?
However, there was a problem.
Not only was I a college athlete, which translates to “no money” because you can’t hold down a part time job in college when you practice football forty hours a week or more, but I also didn’t have any family or a support system that I could tap into for a little additional cash.
But as you might imagine, as a “future” United States Marine I was already demonstrating a variety of creative survival skills, even at this early age.
One of said survival skills that I developed for such occasions related to Valentine’s Day and or Birthdays, Anniversaries or other dates that are significant to young ladies, is being able to obtain an appropriate bouquet of flowers that they would swoon over and be subsequently impressed with.
You may be asking, “How did I manage to perform such a miracle without any money?”
“NO” I didn’t borrow money or anything of the like, if that’s what you are thinking.
“NO” I didn’t misappropriate someone else’s flowers
“NO” I didn’t have a connection with someone in a florist shop.
Like I said, I am nothing if not creative and resourceful.
A few day’s before Valentines Day, a Birthday, Anniversary or other significant date requiring a dozen or more roses or an abundant bouquet of fresh cut flowers I would hawk the local newspaper.
More specifically I would look through the obituaries.
(Don’t you dare judge me)
I would look for a funeral that was close to a cemetery near campus and the following day I would slip over there early in the morning under the cover of darkness after my early morning workout or punishment as was often the case and gather flowers from a recent funeral for whatever specific event was being celebrated on that day.
(Please don’t call me a grave robber, that’s an ugly term)
I would find a vase there too……
(O.K., I would take those too from the cemetery. I know…I know…)
I would take the vase and flowers back to my dorm room and arrange the flowers, along with a hand written note that expressed my undying affections to whomever was the intended recipient of my affections and delivery them personally to the lobby of their dormitory.
(FYI; It’s the personal touch that woman love)
Sometime after the flowers were picked up by my intended love interest, I would be showered with words of romance and “How wonderful and thoughtful I am” etc. etc.
It’s important to note, that due to my “resources” it was common for my particular flower delivery to be larger and considerably more expansive than other gentlemen’s deliveries that they had arranged through conventional means.
Believe it or not there are times that “size” really does matter and flower deliveries are one such time.
Trust me on this one….
However, some care must be taken once the floral arrangement is being prepared to ensure nothing of a “Funeral” nature is included in the Valentines Day, Birthday, Anniversary or other significant delivery.
Nothing kills the romantic mood quite like a “Rest In Peace” tag attached to a lovely bouquet of flowers, decoratively arranged in a glass vase.
One must also take care to carefully examine said vase for any mention of “Courtesy of Hubert’s Funeral Home and Crematory” (For all your funeral needs….)
That’s a mood killer of a Biblical nature.
There is no amount of poetry, or sentimental thoughts or confessions of the heart that will get a pretty girl over those grievous errors of judgment and she will no longer take your calls.
In today’s vernacular that means you would have a social stigma, courtesy of social media, that would last for a generation.
Along with being rejected, you will also be called some names too, that sound eerily similar to “Grave Robber” and some even worse.
The weird thing I have learned about “experience” is that sometimes, you can become so ingrained in your own personal process, that sometimes you can be complacent and skip a step or two.
This unfortunately brings us to a rather memorable Valentine’s Day in my sophomore year in college and one that will live in the annals of love and romance for many years to come in South Alabama.
I saw this incredibly beautiful young lady in a class that began in January of that year and I just couldn’t get her to pay attention to me.
“Julie” had wild shoulder length brown hair and always wore big hoop ear rings that I just loved.
(Don’t judge me; everybody has their “thing”)
She looked like a flower child of sorts and wore tight sweaters, but she was in a word; exotic. I was smitten beyond belief, but I could not get her to notice me.
I subtly let her know that I was a football player with the Mighty Crimson Tide
(“Yes” I was eleventh string on the depth chart, but it still counts, so stop giggling)
Even the mention of The Mighty Crimson Tide, what did I get?
I would set next to her and offer funny quips and antidotes to the class….
Those around me would giggle and laugh uncontrollably
Nothing from her…
So around the first week of February I heard Julie tell another girl in our class as we were taking our seats that her birthday was on Valentine’s Day the next week and it got better.
Julie told the girl that she didn’t have a boyfriend.
“Not yet” she doesn’t I said to myself
I began formulating a plan
Not just a plan, I was working on “The” plan
I began anxiously awaiting the obituaries in the coming days
(Please don’t judge me, it was all for a very good cause)
I already knew which dormitory Julie lived in and “no” I wasn’t stalking her that is such an ugly word. I was actively pursuing Julie.
Let’s me clear about that
I was actively pursuing her, I was NOT stalking her.
So two days before Valentine’s Day and Julie’s Birthday, which I liked to refer to as a “Two-Fer” by the way, I found a funeral that was going to take place near campus and by the obituary it sounded like it was going to be epic.
As a side note, city and county officials that think far too highly of themselves in life typically have larger than life and even bigger funerals, which equates to more, nicer flowers and lots of them.
And that my friend’s is exactly what I found in the obituaries that day.
The funeral for “long time “county councilman what’s his name was going to take place the afternoon before I needed the flowers, which was absolutely perfect.
I would slip over to the cemetery that morning of Valentines Day / Julie’s Birthday and gather the biggest bundle of flowers for her special day that haven’t been seen since the first funeral in the “Godfather” movie.
She would be in love, I just knew it.
The plan was in place and Cupid was shining on me.
The afternoon before Valentines Day I was late to a voluntary work-out
I was five minutes late.
But that five minute error required me to be at the stadium at 0430 the next morning on Valentine’s Day to run stadium steps until I had left a drop of sweat on nearly every step and bench in Bryant-Denny stadium.
As much as I would have liked to have gone to my position coach and asked…
“Coach, can I run the day after Valentines Day, I have a mad crush on this girl in one of my classes and I have to run by the cemetery this morning to collect some flowers from a grave site to put together for her Valentines Day gift.”
I would have been run off campus in two seconds flat with that question.
In all fairness, I also recognized not everyone understands and appreciates “inventiveness”, if you know what I mean.
So I took my punishment like a man.
But myself along with a few others in need of a lesson in timeliness were running a bit longer than was customary that morning.
The sun was coming up over the stadium and I was getting nervous.
Collecting a large, beautiful bouquet of flowers becomes far more problematic during “daylight” hours if you know what I mean.
My exhortations and encouragement to my fellow teammates meant nothing; they like me were beyond gassed from all the running and running and running.
The sun was coming up and was over the horizon before I heard the coaches blow their whistles and yell “That’s enough, shower up and get to class!”
I didn’t bother to shower that morning in the locker room, I had to get to the cemetery and fast.
As tired as I was from running the stadium steps I ran to the cemetery….
By the way….
Part of the allure of flower delivery is having the flowers waiting in the lobby of the dormitory “before” the intended young lady goes to her first class and I knew Julie had an early class that morning, so I had to fly.
(We have already established that I wasn’t stalking Julie, so stop saying that)
I jumped over the wall of the cemetery and I had to move fast, before someone saw me.
I ran over to councilman so-in-so’s gravesite and wrapped my arms around a bundle of flowers and took off running while grabbing a glass vase along the way.
It’s important to note that with time running out; I didn’t have time to pick through the various selections of flowers like I normally would.
(Don’t be upset with me, he wasn’t going to ever use or need them)
It was nearly seven thirty five and I had another five minutes or so run to Julie’s dormitory so I would have to put this together on the fly so to speak.
So, after clearing the cemetery with my flowers and vase I ran towards her dormitory.
I am sure I was a sight to see by some of the early rising students and faculty that morning. Here I was huffing and puffing clutching a bundle of flowers and a vase and running as fast as I could in my workout gear towards what could only be described as true “Love”.
I was in the parking lot of Julie’s dormitory and it was nearly seven forty five.
She would be leaving the dormitory any minute; there was no time to waste
I quickly took the note proclaiming my undying love from my sweaty workout shoe….
(Like I said I had a plan)
I bunched the flowers together as best I could and jammed them into the glass vase
I attached my note of romance and proclamation of love to the flowers
Then I went over to the hose pipe outside her dormitory and filled the vase with water.
(It’s the “little” details that mean so much)
I dashed into her dormitory nearly out of breath and told the smiling young lady at the reception desk of the dormitory that the flowers were for Julie….
(Last name withheld due to legal reasons that have yet to be resolved)
My mission accomplished, I walked back to my dormitory for a shower with dreams of romance dancing in my head.
I cleaned up and went to class and although “our” class wasn’t until the next day I was more than sure that I would hear from my intended love later that day once she saw the magnificent array of flowers and read my beautiful hand written note explaining my hormonal, yet otherwise mature undying affection I had for her.
I rushed home after my afternoon class….
Any messages from my adoring sweetheart?
I went to my voluntary workout (ten minutes early, by the way)
I got back to the dormitory afterwards, still no messages
I finally figured it out
Julie, must have been overwhelmed with not only the flowers for Valentines Day, but the fact I somehow “knew” about her birthday and included that description in my rather cleaver note detailing my deep feelings for her and her tight sweaters and hoop ear rings.
I couldn’t wait for “our” class tomorrow
I was sure she would see me from down the hall
I would see the tears in her eyes, as she clutched her note from me
Julie drops her books and begins to run down the hall into my arms (In slow motion)
She leaps into my arms and with tears of joy in her eyes kisses my neck and proclaims her undying love for me and in the midst of this romantic scene we decide to move to Atlanta after I am drafted by the Atlanta Falcons (In the first round), purchase a modest home and have 2.3 children and live happily ever after.
I could hardly wait for “our” class together that day
I nearly sprinted to class that afternoon
There “she” was at the end of the hallway talking with some other girls
Just like in my daydream
I smiled and waved at Julie as I walked down the hall towards our classroom
But she didn’t run in slow motion towards me
She motioned towards the girls she was with and then pointed at me…
Maybe this is when she takes off running into my arms (In slow motion)
No, something was wrong as she made long strides towards me with her girlfriends walking closely behind her.
When she got close enough to hear me I gave her my best “Welcome to Alabama” smile and said “Hello Darling”
(FYI: Any reference to Conway Twitty in potential romantic situations is always a good choice; don’t ever doubt the power of Conway.)
But I was slightly confused here…
Julie didn’t leap into my arms or place her mouth over mine like a mother bird feeding her young. No, she looked at me like I was a unicorn.
It must be the shock of love, that had to be it.
Before I could say anything….
Julie said one word before she reached into her backpack that was full of books
I almost stammered something but she reached into her backpack and pulled out something with a note attached to it and handed it to me.
It was a plastic phone, like a toy phone that a child would play with.
Julie stood there with her cute little hands on her hips….
I read the note attached to the plastic child’s phone
Damn it, I didn’t check the bundle of flowers for what I described as “contraband”
In my haste to put her flowers together I simply forgot to do a simple (but necessary) security check on the bundle of flowers I had gathered up.
Julie then handed me my hand written note of “Love” and said that she didn’t read it because it was sweaty and smelled like bad feet.
Julie and the girls left me standing in the hallway of our class holding a sweaty note and a plastic child’s phone laughing as they walked away to my obvious indiscretion and error in judgment.
I can’t tell you how difficult it was setting through that class with her that day.
The rest of the semester wasn’t any better with her in that class.
But as I look back on it, I am convinced that it wouldn’t have ever worked out between us, even with her wild brown hair, tight sweaters and big hoop ear rings.
I wasn’t drafted by the Atlanta Falcons or anybody else for that matter in any round which would have put a huge damper on our plans to move to Atlanta and have 2.3 children.
And quite frankly her lack of recognition of my “effort” for Valentines Day and her Birthday was rather disconcerting to say nothing of her complete and total lack of sense of humor concerning the situation.
But just for the record…..
In case you were wondering….
I now have my floral arrangements delivered the “Old Fashioned way”
I buy them