I regard Valentine’s Day with a bemused detachment that borders on apathy.
It doesn’t make me feel any differently about my relationship status –like most days, it has moments when I wish I had a partner and moments when I’m glad I don’t. It doesn’t make me wish someone would buy me flowers; I buy them for myself every week because I like having them around. And it doesn’t impact my chocolate consumption, because I make heroic efforts to keep that consistently high. But there is one thing I look forward to every Valentine’s Day: the writing of the annual poem for the Roommates.
As regular readers know, when I was getting divorced in July of 2011, I moved in to my sister Lynne’s house and spent nine months living with my her, my brother-in-law, and their two kids, whom I affectionately dubbed the Roommates. Emily and Timothy, who were eight and six when I moved in, not only didn’t mind having their aunt as a boarder but saw it as a familial upgrade.
As an expression of my gratitude, I tried to lend a hand with the kids when I could, meeting them at the bus stop, helping with homework, or chauffeuring them to their activities, but no amount of pitching in for Emily and Timothy could come close to the support those two gave me. They helped me unpack and decorate my room, ran errands with me, and always kept me fully stocked with hugs and laughs. When I was at my lowest, they made me feel important and loved.
So when Valentine’s Day rolled around in 2012, I decided to show them some love: I wrote a goofy poem –an inside joke-laden riff on “Roses are red, violets are blue” –and taped it to the mirror in their bathroom so their day would start off with a happy surprise. A year later, I had moved into my own house but kept the tradition going, and it continues to this day.
Over time, the poems have seen a slight increase in structural, if not thematic, sophistication, migrating from “Roses are red” to limericks, to this example from 2015:
Ode to the Roommates
Roses are red (although some come in yellow),
But Cupid, he’s always a fat little fellow.
He flies through the air wearing wings, but no sneakers
Nor pants, shirts or socks, like some weird pint-sized streaker!
He shoots, a crime that would get both of you grounded
But not him. And his bow? Not so much as impounded.
Hearts are the things that he’s trying to hit
But I’m here to report that his aim, well, it’s ….(not the best).
He’s shot me a dozen times right in the gut
And arrows have left scars all over my butt.
But you’re not in his crosshairs, and I know the reason.
You are loved every day, every month, every season.
So while Cupid is out acting all totes cray-cray
Just relax, have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
I decided to up my game this year and introduce the kids to a classic by writing a version of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was a great idea until I realized that poem really puts the “long” in Longfellow, so for my and the Roommates’ sanity, I abridged it. The kids know I’m a few stanzas shy of a full poem, anyway. So without further ado, and with apologies to Longfellow, I bring you “Cupid’s Ride,” featuring a guest appearance by Buddy, the family dog. Oh, and if you find parts of it sophomoric, that means I overachieved, because the kids are in middle school.
Listen up, Roommates, and you shall hear
Of the antics of love’s puppeteer.
On February 14th of oh-seventeen
From north to south and in between
Cupid planned to careen, zip, and veer.
He said to his friend, “If lonely hearts stay
At home or go on the lam tonight,
Or snapchat or just fight against tooth decay,
Shooting my arrows will set it all right:
One in the can, or two in the knee,
Then I, high above in the soft clouds will be,
Ready to strike with a dose of my charm,
Through every street all about Franklin Farm,
Breaking in to those houses that have no alarm.”
“Now I’m off!,” he said, his iPhone in grip,
Ready to fly and to just let it rip.
With clouds creating a bit of a haze,
He decided to leave all the mapping to Waze.
To Wildmere he went, seeking Em Bem and Tim-o
(It might have been faster to hire a limo.)
His arrows were marked: one “her” and one “him-o,”
He prayed for light traffic – love dislikes delays!
Meanwhile, Buddy, through backyards and street,
Wanders and watches with eager ear
Till in the silence he can’t help but hear
A blunder –someone at the garage door,
The sound of cursing, the trip of feet,
And the sound of a cap, pried free of a beer
Ready to ease down a throat, with a pour.
Buddy climbed up the sofa, took his perch
On its nice cushions, made of soft thread,
To the top, on which he could rest his head;
He felt ready to snooze, then to lurch,
As the sounds around that nervous him made,
Who’s there? Dad? Mom? The cleaning brigade?
Atop those luxe pillows, all fleecy and fluff,
He thought, “Uh-oh, I’ve gone far enough.”
There he paused to listen and look down
Wait, has that pillow always been brown?
Oh look! Moonlight flowing over stuff!
Outside, in the garage, lurked the sprite,
Cupid, that is, not the stuff you drink;
Wrapped in silence and a bad stink,
Regretting that burrito last night.
With a most ill wind, off he went,
Creeping as if from Hades sent,
Not pausing to whisper, “Mind the smell!”
Next moment, Buddy, he felt the spell
Of the place and the hour- it wasn’t right;
Would he be blamed? Just maybe he might.
Then suddenly all his thoughts were bent
On a chubby angel inches away
In the spot where Buddy liked to play,
Wearing white, bow and arrow in hand-
Did he have some sort of nude attack planned?
Meanwhile, impatient to take aim and shoot,
Cupid had had it with this galoot.
Right in the door then walked Tim-o and Em:
The true targets of the pudgy brute,
Who gazed on the kids and said, “Ahem.”
Then, for flair, he stamped the earth
And turned to suck in his extra girth;
They watched him whip, then watched him nae-nae,
But when he grabbed his bow, Em said, “Hey, hey,
Could you put that down? You’re making me sweat.”
He said, “OMG, this ain’t nothin’ yet.”
And lo! Near the angel and off to his right
Came a fur flash blacker than the night!
Buddy sprang to action, without snarls or grins
And grabbed the arrow, then ran out of sight
With his new toy, thinking, “Hooray, love wins!”