We were several months into our long-distance relationship. He lived 3 hours Northeast in a lovely place called Bellingham.
Since Valentine’s fell on a school day, we made a plan to meet halfway in Seattle for dinner. (Which, by the way, wasn’t halfway at all. He had to drive over two hours to get to me … I simply had to walk onto a ferry.)
Things were shaping up as not-so-great from the get-go.
As a gift to Ryan, I wanted to bring him some home-cooked food to take back to his dorm. Namely — The Favorite Pie of All Time — a banana cream pie.
He loved his grandma’s recipe. Which, of course, I didn’t bother to get. Instead, I picked a recipe from online and ran with it. (Literally. But, we’ll get to that in a minute.)
There was one fatal mistake to my recipe. Instead of having a whipped cream topping, it had a merengue topping.
Ever the procrastinator, I made this pie the day of. I can’t remember exactly, but it was likely the hour of. All I remember, was that by the time I had my pie boxed and ready to go, I was running late.
An absolute no-no when you need to catch a ferry — or risk being an hour and a half late on your date.
Unfortunately for me, I did not grow up in Washington. Which meant this was the first time I ever drove to the ferry, and had to figure out where to park my car. (Enter fatal flaw #2.)
Since I was running late, I did the only thing that seemed logical — I pulled into the first available space in the first available paid parking lot, threw my transmission into park, and rushed to unbuckle and grab my things.
In all the hustle, I dropped my purse strap into the sticky merengue pie.
With no time to think, I quickly assessed the damage (and oh yes was there damage), threw my purse over my shoulder, and made a dash for the collections box.
Normally, this would not have been a problem … Except…. My purse strap pulled off half the merengue when I lifted the strap out of the pie and had subsequently transplanted it all to my shoulder.
(I suppose if your boyfriend loves pie so much, you might as well wear if, right? Who needs perfume?)
I ran over to the pay booth, where I had to fold a $20 bill to squeeze through the tiny slit to my spot — #84. The parking fee wasn’t $20. It was half that. But I was a newbie, remember, and was totally unprepared with smaller bills.
The real problem (besides overpaying) was that my spot wasn’t #84
It was #83.
I had paid for the wrong spot, which I wasn’t made aware of until later in the week when an additional bill for $40 came in.
Naive to my mistake, I checked out my watch, realized the time, and knew I had to make a run for it…
Because what I didn’t realize at the time was that the lot I parked in was about the furthest you could get away from ferry terminal. I had blocks and blocks and blocks to go.
What I also failed to take into account was the fact that I hadn’t run since those stupid timed miles in Elementary school along.
Which means I hadn’t run any length of time in approximately a century.
The first minute I was OK. And then I wanted to die. I wanted to stop and throw away my stupid pie that was feeling more and more like a burden (and an ugly one for that matter) and less like a gift. I wanted to curse the cute little shoes I wore.
I mean, this was a marathon of love!!! What business did I have wearing dress shoes?
There was a point at which I thought I just might have a heart attack and die right there, face first into a banana cream pie. But then the ferry terminal came into sight, and it gave me that last little motivation I needed to complete my race.
Once you make it to the terminal, you still have to make it through the doors at the ramp. I barely made those before they closed right behind me. Then, there was the mile-long ramp to the boat. (OK, OK it wasn’t quite that long. But it felt like it!)
As I neared the end, the ferry worked on the boat began shouting at me to hurry, hurry, hurry.
I gave it everything I had, bouncing pie, hurting feet, pounding heart, and practically lept over the retractable walkway onto the boat.
“You barely made it!” the ferry guy exclaimed. “I thought I was going to have to pull the ramp up before you got here.”
I shrugged — too breathless to even think of speaking — and sat down at a table to hopefully resume feeling like a human again.
And then, I looked at my pie.
My beautiful whipped merengue had a huge arch through it. The pie was cracked and jostled, and the merengue that was left looked flat and lifeless. Really, it looked like mush.
Yellow mush in a box.
I didn’t look much better.
My face was flushed red. My feet had blisters. My coat was wearing pie for goodness sake. Everything felt sticky and yucky.
Once the hour long ferry was over, I collected my banana mush, my sticky purse, and my wounded pride and whisked them all off the ferry. I found Ryan waiting for me in the parking lot across the way.
He handed me a bouquet of flowers, except something wasn’t quite right.
The flowers looked like they had been the ball in a Super Bowl game.
It was then that I learned that Ryan’s trip not gone much better than mine.
When he was on the freeway, the car behind him rear-ended him. While he and his car escaped without much damage, the flowers in the vase in the backseat took all of the brunt of it.
And so he handed me a bouquet with half the flowers missing or damaged, and I handed him a pie where half of it was missing and all of it was damaged … And then we laughed, kissed, and told each other we love each other.
For all intents and purposes, it could have been the worst Valentine’s ever.
But it wasn’t.
He probably felt more love because I had to run a marathon with that pie in hand. And he knew I was NOT a runner. And I felt so much love just because he drove so far to see me … Messed-up bouquet and all.
While our Valentine’s Days have rarely been as disastrous as our first one … we’ve learned to embrace that our celebrations of love often look nothing like what most people post on Facebook.
I usually tell him to only buy me flowers the day AFTER Valentine’s because they are at least half-price.
We rarely buy each other cards, or even gifts. But when we do, it is unexpected and welcome.
Some years, we go out on dates … But most of the time we would rather go a different day so we don’t have to fight the crowds.
Often we spend the day at home. We say “I love you” just as we do every other day. We do something special for our girls.
And in all, we are quite happy with our traditions … Or lack thereof.
Because I tend to feel most loved from everything else he does all week for me. The 5 days a week he rolls out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to make it to work. The times he takes my car in to make sure I am safe when I drive. The 4 nights a week he plucks my conked-out self from the couch, tucks me into bed and plugs in my phone.
And I’ve yet to make him another banana cream pie. But I feed him dinner every night, take care of his laundry, keep our kids alive….And watch late-night Netflix with him when I could care less about the show.
Our redefined romance might be mundane. But our love is stronger than it ever was — even stronger than the day I wore his favorite pie to our Valentine’s date.