Cupid's Arrow: Bent, Not Broken

Written by: Christine Louise Hohlbaum

Web Site:  
Diary of a Mother

Valentine’s Day is a touchy subject with me. It is not that my husband forgets to honor our love on that day. In fact, he is better at remembering Valentine’s Day than he is at remembering our anniversary. Perhaps I should consider making our anniversary a National Hallmark holiday with lots of billboards and other advertising to help the poor guy recall the day we became husband and wife. No matter. We have Cupid’s celebration for which he can ramp up his adoration for me.

The reason for my apprehension about mid-February’s day of romance is quite simple: plants. It was a linguistic misunderstanding, a cross-cultural faux pas that has stuck in my mind for over a decade. You see, my husband is German, and in the beginning of our relationship, my German wasn’t that great.

As February 14th neared that first year of our courtship, I suggested to my then boyfriend that Americans celebrate the holiday with flowers. It would be useful if he would remember that. I really thought I had gotten through to him. Without belabouring the point, I would occasionally point out the red hearts and bow and arrow decorations that ornately hung in the shop windows. I would then reiterate my love for flowers and how special a woman feels when she receives them.

Had I been a bit more vigilant in my undertaking, the holiday wouldn’t have turned out as it did. The German word Blumen means both flowers and plants. As I continually mentioned my interest in Blumen, my husband, a biologist by trade, had nodded with great understanding. After many other language barriers had been crossed, it seemed as if I were finally talking his lingo. As Valentine’s Day arrived, my excited boyfriend presented me with a spider plant wrapped in light green cellophane. You know which kind of plant I mean: the unkillable kind that has lots of babies, the kind that would even survive while you’re away on your six-week African safari.

In that moment, I couldn’t help but show my disappointment.

"Flowers! I meant flowers!" I said in English to him in a rather unkind, obnoxious manner. For a moment, it appeared as if he were going to snatch the plant away from me. I peered down at the lovely wrapping job that he had so painstakingly done and smiled.

"But I suppose plants last longer, huh?" I placed the plant on our sunny windowsill.

I chose to look at our first Valentine’s Day this way: he thinks our love will result in an unshakeable marriage with lots of kids. After all, isn’t that what a spider plant symbolizes?

We now have two children, and we have been married ten years. While our spider plant did not survive our multiple moves, the lesson that it brought us has remained. Perhaps my husband knew what I meant all along, and he chose a different path for our love, one which lasts for more than just one day in February.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, American author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, lives near Munich, Germany, with her husband and two children. When she isn’t writing, leading toddler playgroups or wiping up messes, she prefers to frolick with her family in the Bavarian countryside. Visit her Web site:


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Ten tips for Valentine's Day
Key to Romance
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Cupid's Arrow
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