Valentine’s Day, Single Awareness Day—whatever you call it—conjures up memories of miniature chalk-tasting hearts and Superman valentines speared with a lollipop. This holiday is most likely the busiest one for florists and millions of roses are sold each year. That’s a lot of dried petals, folks.
I call this romantic (and necessary part of relationships) “pretty love”. It’s the part that is often shown in photo shoots, social media and bragged about to others. What is less mentioned, promoted and shared is what I call “ugly love”. It is just as essential as its opposite, but is sadly often under-glorified.
If I asked for a show of hands what your favorite flower to give or receive on this overly-commercialized day would be, I can guarantee that none of y’all are putting your palms in the air for a pine tree. They are plain, misshapen, and only look good covered up at Christmas. Kind of like my thighs.
Pine trees lead me to think about Pine Sol and that makes me remember run-down nursing homes smelling of urine. So it comes as no surprise that due to my stream of conscious smelling, I am not a big fan of evergreens, conifers or what have you.
Make that was.
I used to think they were such a waste of plant life. They have no flowers, make no one gasp and pull off the road for autumn splendor and only leave pokey cones that make you twist your ankle while hiking.
However, since moving to Montana when all surfaces turn brown or white for 6 months, I yearn to see green shoots and budding anything to show that winter will be over soon. My appreciation for something that could stay green in this sepia environment has now grown taller than the monstrous fir trees in my yard. And though love can be sweet like the smell of freesia, soft as a rose petal, delicate like an orchid, exciting and vibrant as a tropical rainforest—I’ll take ugly love any day.
One of my most memorable ugly love moments when I thought my devotion for my husband could know no bounds was not something you’d see on a Kay Jeweler’s commercial. Intermittently weaved in through the past fifteen years, he’s given me flowers, made breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day, and even let me sleep in a fair number of days. But nothing compares to a time when I called him at work and weakly mumbled into the receiver that I was really, really sick and needed him to come home.
He walked into a scene from a PBS special entitled Primetime Flu in the Appalachia–the house was destroyed, I was passed out on the couch mumbling feverishly and clutching a metal bowl in preparation for the upcoming nausea. Children clawed for me and looked at him like feral, starved monkeys begging for care. He carefully led me upstairs to bed and took care of all and everyone until the illness had passed. And I loved him deeply for it.
It doesn’t even have to be at your worst to have glorious ugly love. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that if it’s important to him, it can be important to me. Por exemplo: I could care less if the vacuum canister is emptied on a regular basis. Once the hairballs start seeping out the top of the container or there is a strange dying eel sound coming from the vacuum, that’s the signal to dump it. But for my husband, protocol is that it is dumped each. And. Every. Time. I don’t get it. At all. But since it is important to him and I’m trying really hard to not be a selfish brat, I work at it. Even though when I do remember, I announce it like I just won the Talladega 500, I’m pretty sure it still counts.
Sometimes, some of us see scenes from movies, read breathless passages in romance novels and watch 20-somethings gazing at each other with such passion that we wish for that pretty love. And that pretty love is essential and wonderful to have. I hope one day our society can be more comfortable revealing, celebrating and sharing the ugly love moments that knit our hearts together and make marriages stronger.
So this Valentine’s Day, please remember the humble conifer showing us ugly love all through the long winter. They are constant, secure, never-varying and always protecting. They are colorful when all the pretties have wilted and been turned to compost. Let’s all be ugly lovers together and consider buying your sweetheart a pine tree this year with maybe just a smidgen of chocolate.
Photo cred: Pexels.com