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  • Pamela Beason

Valentine's Day, Toolkits, and Trackhoes

How did the single woman of the Free Range Writers trio get tapped to write a post on Valentine's Day? Probably because my cohorts Greg and Dave are actually out on dates or something romantic like that.

Hallmark, I hate you. Santa Claus, I hate you, too, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing you don't actually exist. While Christmas seems contrived to make every individual without a big family feel like they took a nosedive off the right track, Valentine's Day is clearly and commercially designed to make those of us who are normally happy solo individuals think about hanging a noose over the closest tree branch and putting our heads into it. Well, I exaggerate. . .but only a little.

I'm not the only one who detests Valentine's Day, when it feels like a commandment to behave in romantic ways. One of my male friends growls, "Nobody's going to tell me when to take my wife out or give her a gift!" You can’t walk into a store this time of year without confronting red cardboard boxes loaded with candy, heart-shaped balloons, bouquets of flowers, and glittery greeting cards. And although I would smile if a man bestowed any of those on me (except for the balloons, which are environmental hazards), I don’t consider those things to be romantic gifts. Nope, they’re completely generic. One size fits all.

To me, a romantic gift is a thoughtful gift--one that is uniquely intended for a single, specific recipient. The most romantic gift I ever received in my life was a set of tools. To some women, that may sound crazy. But to me, that metal box filled with hammers and wrenches and screwdrivers meant that the man truly knew me. He knew I was a fixer of things. He knew I was not frilly or fluffy. And he knew that I needed some good tools. He appreciated me for who I truly was, and he gave a gift designed for me, not for some generic woman. I once gave a guy a hot-air balloon ride for a gift, because although I am personally terrified of heights, I knew he'd always dreamed of going on one.

When I blogged on this subject in years past, one of my women friends commented that the gift she most appreciated from her husband was a bandsaw, and after 44 years of marriage, she was hoping for a drill press. That made me laugh, and assured me I was not alone. I responded that I had always wanted a trackhoe, but I was not holding my breath. I've flattened landscapes and dug trenches with a backhoe, but they are awkward machines. A trackhoe is much more graceful. I figure that if I ask my neighbor to turn down his music or I'll be over in five minutes, he will listen when I tell him I'll be driving my trackhoe. (As you might be able to tell, Valentine's Day brings sinister ideas to this mystery writer's mind...)

But back to the idea of romantic gifts... I try to put truly personal romantic gestures in the books I write. In Shaken, Jake the insurance investigator notices that nursery owner and heavy-equipment operator Elisa Langston tends to tie back her unruly Latina hair with twine or paperclips, so he gives her a beautiful antique hair clip. In Undercurrents, the third mystery in my Sam Westin series, FBI Agent Chase gives Sam a lovely painting of a mountain lion that memorializes their first meeting (something not many couples would share). Now, that's romance! Too bad these guys are fictional.

Generic gifts are fine for family members or friends that you simply want to include, but only a personal gift is truly romantic.

How do you feel about Valentine's Day? What is the most romantic gift you ever received?