There was a time not long ago when Valentine’s Day held some sort of profound significance, I’m certain. Even in adulthood, I think Sonja and I used to celebrate it more than we do now. We got married on February 16, the Saturday of that year back in 2013, and while I think many told us it was a romantic gesture, the date was set as much by pragmatism as by anything else. I was about to move over the ocean, and we wanted to have said our vows before we knowingly separated ourselves with that much space. Since that time, and as life has evolved and changed, that pragmatism has remained relatively constant in our lives. Of course we didn’t go out last night, we have show tickets tonight; you think we’re going to pay a babysitter two nights in a row?
After dinner, we gave the kids their gifts from grandma and grandpa and exchanged cards in a hurried manner, the cards themselves revealing our rush for their content as well — brief and rushed from both of us, no doubt written in between errands and obligations that same day. Sonja’s was a sweet reminder of two fond memories we share, and it made me smile. Mine was a cactus joke about loving me even though I’m prickly. Earlier in the evening, I scolded Titus for taking an ink pen and drawing on a box made of cork that was a gift to me from a winemaker friend. Going to bed, after reading from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as well as from one of the books my parents sent him for a Valentine’s Day gift, I assured him that it was only a possession, that he was what really mattered. Sonja put Zooey, still sick, down for the night, and we met briefly in bed, staring like zombies at our phones and missed push notifications, until Sonja suggested we go downstairs. And so, Sonja in her yoga pants, me in a cross country tee shirt, we found our places in front of the fireplace and I opened a bottle of Champagne.
In the firelight, things began to calm down at last. Our conversation began on whether or not Biden or Warren could recover in the primaries, whether Bernie could win the general, and if Buttigieg is actually a Democrat or not. I have begrudgingly given thought to running for office if President Trump is reelected, so I’d rather he not be. Sorry for getting political, but this nation needs more moderates who are willing to compromise in it, and less hate speech and fear. I like my life the way it is, though I’d like to believe I could make a meaningful contribution if called upon to do so.
Our conversation shifted again, to families, to her dad’s upcoming birthday which was avoidably scheduled by a third party at a time when 50% of his children and 67% of his grandchildren can’t be there. We talked about Sonja’s upcoming birthday, her fortieth, though I can’t get her to commit to what she’d like to do. We talked about old friends, new ones, and maybe going to Champagne and Bordeaux over spring break a year from now. With there being so many countries I’ve never visited, it’s hard to make return trips to places like France where I’ve spent significant time, but of course the wine calls to me.
The wine we drank last night was from one of those regions, and was quite excellent. Philippe Fontaine Cuvee des Lys 2015 is a Champagne that I would argue competes easily with Veuve, Dom, and other famous Champagne producers whose wines I am familiar with. Nutty, bubbly, creamy, restrained — it did what I want all sparkling wines to do and what so many can’t by offering layers and complexity, something beyond a single flavor and a mouthful of fizz. Made from 100% Pinot Blanc and aged in oak for 18 months, this brut sparkler really delivered, and made me wish I’d acted on my impulse to purchase coupes to replace our flutes with.
The wine was gone before our conversation ended, so I snagged a couple of pressed glass port glasses that we purchased in an antique shop on our “Babymoon” in Lake Worth, Florida, and we sipped at the little remaining fortified wine from a bottle we picked up at Vermeil Wines on a trip back in March 2016, enjoying these memories and the fire and one another. Eventually, we went up to bed. Sonja pulled out her book, and I rolled over on my side, thinking that, despite an obvious lack of roses, chocolate, and grand gestures, it was one of the best — and maybe even the most romantic, Valentine’s Days we’ve had so far.