What is romance?

My father was a Depression era kid raised (primarily) by a single working mother. He was far from being  the “beach stud”. He was an asthmatic guy that weighed all of 109 pounds when he entered the Navy during WWII. The wartime action he saw did not transform him into a suave, medal-wearing extrovert. He played saxophone with some of the “Big Bands” and was still a scrawny, introverted, curious, wanderer when he returned from playing in the bars of Paris after the war. He came back to become a writer. He looked like a beatnik. That’s when he met my mother. It was in a bar. Both were on dates with other people. She caught his eye, and 6 weeks later, they were engaged. Wedding bells rang in less than a year.

Which brings me to something else my father was; my father was an incredible romantic. I always saw him as the larger-than-life, soap-opera, romance novel, big screen movie kind of romantic. (In fact, he once told me that, in the absence of his father, most of what he knew about romance he had learned from the movies.) I grew up watching the interactions with my mother, and I saw the romance daily. It was in the details– a bunch of violets when they came home from a date in San Francisco, a foot rub at the end of her long day tending 9 children, well guarded “date days”and late night swims in the pool, a bracelet filled with specially selected charms from travels around the world, the way he called her “Doll”, countless notes and trinkets that held meaning to just the two of them, their songs, the way he reached for her hand, private jokes and the way she laughed, a bowl of hotel soaps that held a lifetime of memories…. In the eyes of a little girl, he was short only a white stallion. Yep, their romance of almost 50 years was in the details.

On an anniversary one year, my dad gave my mom one of the most romantic gifts I had ever seen. He had a piece of heavy glass cut and beveled to fit the top of her make-up table. Under it, he placed a piece of heavy parchment type paper upon which he had carefully recorded their life together through cryptic words, selected locations and abbreviated comments. In closing, a simple “…” signified there were memories yet to be made together. He was a classic romantic.

A little more than 2 and a half decades ago, I met my own romantic man. I saw him, and he saw me, though neither of us let on. We came from different backgrounds and he was there to work at my parent’s house, not date their daughter. He had a deep tan, dark Italian eyes, strong muscles, and a smile that could light up a room, despite his shy nature. We flirted, parted, and were eventually pushed together by friends that saw the chemistry between us. Our first date turned into three days, and three days into a life together.

In my youth, I thought there was only one way to romance a woman–the way I had watched my father romance my mother. As a grown woman, I have learned that romance is different for each couple…

My father worked with words, my husband with his hands. New windows, a fence around my garden, a bed made for my daughter, well maintained cars and a cottage built by his hands all show me his love.

My father was a planner, my husband spontaneous. Secluded trails, greasy spoons, and unplanned Saturdays in bed remind me I am loved.

My father was demonstrative, my husband more reserved. Stolen glances, a gentle hand upon my leg, and a subtle brush against me in the kitchen assure me I am his, and he is mine.

Both men have (had) always protected and provided for the women they love, and both offer genuine romance from their hearts.

21 years ago, my husband and I married. Though no marriage is without bumps, there is no one else I would rather share this roller coaster with. After all these years, he still surprises me, encourages me, makes me blush, laugh, and my stomach flutter. But above all, he makes me feel loved through his own special form of romance.

For my husband, and with gratitude to my father for the idea, here is my own abbreviated, cryptic glimpse at romance.

A bunch of wildflowers picked in the foothills… pizza dinners on your late school nights… a massive earthquake… badminton games… B&B getaways… Bill of Fare… an old Chevy and “3 on the tree”… a cat hanging on a screen door… llama wrestling… a James Brown concert and angry horses… raccoons at Thanksgiving dinner… a small Christmas tree… the Napa Wine Train… a wedding eve haircut… the pizza parlor, a glass of wine, and a wedding dress… popping champagne watching the “moon rise”… a little blue Sunbeam… casting, not fishing… a volcano and the Banyan tree in Maui… driving through a redwood tree… tracking wild boars…  “All Dogs Go to Heaven”… Princeton-by-the-Sea and the Sandbar…”Paler Shade of White”… drizzly, grey days at the beach… dancing with Greek friends in Acapulco… “mi amico”…Venetian mask shops… finding you in Portofino… “Dr. Banana”…the Olympic arch in Olympia… grappa in Florence… crossing “dangerous” streets in Rome… a Greek fisherman that shared his catch on the beach… feta cheese and olives… the flowers in Capri… the dogs in Monte Carlo… fertility treatments, miscarriages, and two beautiful girls… an antique diamond ring… a little yellow farm-house with a magic tree slide and wonderful neighbors that helped make a house a home… a green frog Christmas ornament… a Steve Martin play in San Francisco… thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets… watching the Vatican Mass on countless Christmas Eve’s… sleigh bells to spur imagination… a handmade and painted toddler bed… Grandpa’s clock in the wee hours…plane ride with animals on the tail… an Italian dessert made with peaches… a pensione in San Francisco’s little Italy… a hamster co-pilot… surgeries, hospital stays, and morphine induced jokes… a log cabin and swings that soar high… little antique shops… river rafting in Jamaica, swimming with stingrays and Xcaret… the bus system and cupcakes in Vancouver… Christmas mornings in the cottage… the Denver Art Museum… satellite spotting in the hot tub… invasive bunnies… running bear snacks… a glacier and a rain forest in Alaska… Pike’s Peak… “It’s a bear, it’s a bear, it’s a bear!”… a one man town… an old fort in Utah…Zion National Park… river rafting… snow in the Grand Canyon and wind in the Sand Dunes… archery competitions and cat posts… horses, rabbits, cats, lizards, snakes, rats, hamsters, frogs, newts, fish, and a dog… rogue pumpkin plants and feeder fish… camping trips… escargot, caviar, and “bobs”…  “The Lion King”, the opera, and Christmas-time plays at a small theater… cottage dates……….

Thank you, my love, for the details of my life. The best is yet to come….

(Photo credit: Maren Miller at www.marenmillerphotography.blogspot.com)

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