Dr. Paul Butler

By the time you read these words I will have already motored to town in search of an appropriate gift for a day which, I confess, has never been one of my favorite celebratory seasons.

In the first place itís hard to take any holiday seriously which has as its focal icon an undersized and overweight angel floating through the clouds wearing nothing but a bow and arrow. I can appreciate the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, but somehow a chubby cherub with puffy wings and fat lips has never squared with my own mental image of romance.

And who was it that settled on roses as the Valentine flower of choice. Whatís wrong with carnations which cost half as much and grow twice as big. And why do roses have to have long stems. I say give me the cheap ones with the short stems, and put them in a tall vase. After all, a fellow needs to save every penny possible for the big Valentine meal heís expected to spring for.

The one where he takes his lady-love to the big city and spends a c-note for something with a French name which he could have had at home for half the price. Of course at Lolitaís Diner and Domino Parlor instead of asking a guy in a tuxedo for ĎChateaubrion heíll have to settle for telling a gal in a spotted apron to send out two roast beef platters. And at home he will have to make do with side dishes of mashed potatoes, green beans, and fried okra whereas the big-city chief would likely send out two spears of half-cooked asparagus and enough garnish to paper a bathroom.

And while I am on the subject, why do high-dollar restaurants feel the need to serve food that is only partially prepared. Whatís with the ďal denteĒ carrots and green beans that taste like something the cook collected from the eaves of the building during an ice storm, and meat that spends so little time on the grill itís able to turn itself.

I donít mean to complain but Iím not overly fond of steak that comes out looking like someone cooked it with a cigarette lighter, or roast beef so rare that patrons are afraid their main course will get well before they have time to begin the entrťe. And all in the name of romance.

I think my disillusionment with Valentineís Day began in elementary school when it seemed every year I gave out more valentines than I received. You remember those days when you were a kid and bought a packet of valentine cards for a dime, and your romantic prowess was measured by the number of cards you brought home.

My dream in second grade was to get a card from Martha Jane Eschenburg who was as close to perfect as a girl can get. She could spew 7-Up out of her nose at will and could tear through the Red-Rover line like a Notre Dame fullback. She was double jointed and could cross her eyes and touch the end of her nose with the tip of her tongue at the same time. She was a dream.

Alas, however, she favored another, and the closest I ever came to getting a valentine from her was a squirt of carbonated water across the toes of my Acme boots. Fortunately second graders bounce back from failed love affairs quickly and the following year I spent my dime on bubble gumÖ two for a penny.

I donít know why Iím surprised at my disappointment with Valentineís Day. After all, Saint Valentine was himself no great shakes at romance, or life either for that matter.

As a priest he had very little opportunity to practice the romantic part, and his life came to an abrupt end when in 200 A.D. he got at odds with the Roman government. He apparently favored monogamous marital relationships and they had more liberal tastes.

In any case they must have been extremely miffed as he was sentenced to be hanged, stoned, and beheaded in that order. The old Roman ďtriple header.Ē Apparently the Romans were strong believers in capital punishment.

Well, I gotta close and head to the old flower shop before all the carnations are sold. Itís not that Iím yielding to the pressure of the season, but after all, we do live in the HEART of Texas.

Dr. Paul Butler is a retired professor of education at Howard Payne University. Contact him by e-mail at paul_virginia@verizon.net.