sec·ond – adjective \ˈse-kənd also -kənt,especially before a consonant -kən, -kəŋ\
: occupying the number two position in a series
: next to the first in importance or rank
: another of the same kind
I watch as the coconut oil melts into the cocoa powder to create a drizzly chocolate I can use to coat strawberries. After adding a couple of tablespoons of pure maple syrup to sweeten the sauce, I coat the berries one at a time then lay them on a covered plate.
This is the last step in creating a perfect Valentine’s dinner at home. Not that it’s actually Valentine’s Day. The holiday itself falls on a Friday this year when the boys will be with us. That evening will be spent eating dinner out at our favorite local Mexican restaurant followed by a movie at the theater the next day with them.
But this night, when Steve works late and the weather is unpredictable and the movie we want to see is available on-demand, I roast vegetables and boil pasta and chop a salad for a nice dinner at home.
Just like last year.
This is our second Valentine’s Day, I suddenly realize. Relief floods over me as the reality settles in. The second one, I say again to myself as I remember the pasta and the strawberries and the salad I made last year.
We haven’t had many seconds in our house. Our first anniversary at the end of December ended a long line of firsts. Each birthday and holiday and vacation and school event we encountered in the last 12 months was new and exciting. But it also was stressful and confusing. When two families are joined together – even if one of those families consists of only a woman and her dog – there are traditions and expectations to be sorted through, hurt feelings and unspoken grudges to be avoided, if at all possible.
Now that we are arriving at the second round of all these events, things feel a little easier. Firsts are momentous. Seconds are . . . well, normal. Maybe even boring.
I like boring.
When we first started making our Valentine’s plans, we weren’t necessarily expecting to celebrate at home. Steve had hoped to take me out to a new restaurant we found recently. But a realistic look at the day’s schedule rendered that idea impossible. Until that very moment when I was standing in front of the stove making chocolate sauce, it hadn’t dawned on me that eating at home was much better.
“Maybe this could be our tradition,” I proposed to Steve later that evening.
Over the weekend, I was admiring my Valentine’s roses which have stayed beautiful for days. The rich red of the petals grows more complex as the flowers age.
“Did you get me red last year?” I ask, trying to remember.
“I think so,” Steve answers. I smile.
Because these aren’t just red Valentine’s roses, these are my second red Valentine’s roses.
A rose by any other name wouldn’t smell so sweet.
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