I remember on Valentine's Day a good 15 years or so ago, my husband and I, so very young and naive, planned to celebrate with dinner at a restaurant. On Valentine's Day. In Amarillo. On a Friday night.

Now, anyone who has ever tried to eat out in Amarillo knows there's a wait at Burger King on an ordinary Friday night, much less Valentine's Day. We practically ran from the Olive Garden after hearing the hostess warn another couple of the two-and-a-half hour wait. Three restaurants later, we were in no better shape time-wise, and even hungrier and grumpier. Worse, my hairspray was starting to deflate. It was circa 1998, after all.

We ended up in a corner booth of a stale and smokey Kettle, literally the only place in town we were going to be served before midnight. I complained endlessly about the crappy burger and whined about the bread sticks I would've had, had every other couple in the Tri-State area not thought they, too, had to stuff their faces at the Olive Garden.

james steidl
james steidl

And then for the next several years of our marriage we spent our Valentine's Day apart, ships passing in the night. Our work schedules could not have been more opposite.

After that came the little people. And now Valentine's Day is Mod Podging Kleenex boxes, Iron Man-themed Valentine's cards in kindergartener scrawl and whatever I threw into the slow cooker for dinner, because even the line at Burger King is too much for the thread of patience by which my little family hangs on most days.

I did, however, manage to find seven minutes to buy some Shiner and pistachios for my husband. 'Cause I'm nuts about him and they're his favorite. This week it has been a true feat for me to find time to shower, so the fact that I managed to do something for someone who is (a) not paying me and (b) taller than 4'5" is practically an act of heroism.

Valentine's Days have certainly changed for us, although I am not complaining. They're very different, but still very sweet. Simpler, somehow. And, we didn't know it then, but that crazy Valentine's Day at the Kettle turned out to be the most memorable Valentine's Day of our marriage, so far. That Kettle has long since closed, but every time we drive by the chipped concrete lot where it sat, we point and say "remember when...."

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