#2,611 My Valentine.

As is his tradition, on special days Ben wakes up early and sneaks out of our room to begin the day with a surprise. I smelled breakfast cooking when I opened my eyes, and found that he had visited the bakery and brought home my favorite, a raspberry danish, and was cooking eggs and sausage for himself (and for me to share, if I wanted—reasons he is a better person than me, the person who never shares French fries).

He gave me a card that made me laugh out loud.

And I made him a t-shirt that made him laugh out loud, but I couldn’t wait to give it to him. I spoiled the surprise last week:

And after a very long day at my studio, I came home to find our porch had been turned into the most charming cafe where Sidney Bechet plays on the radio:

He put fresh flowers from our little store and from our own backyard, camelias, azaleas and Japanese magnolias, in the pottery I made in college. He picked them all with me in mind. I imagined him doing this while I was away, on a quiet mission in the backyard with the dogs trailing curiously beside him—ready to play, while he bent down and reached up to clip all the prettiest blooms without any spots or brown edges. He told me to smell the magnolias, and it felt just like spring.

I could smell the garlic and butter drifting through the screen doors from the kitchen, and soon he came out again with our dinner. Pan seared steaks from the butcher shop, parmesan green beans, and a salad with plenty of sundried tomatoes and red bell peppers—my favorite.

I could cry, I felt so much love for him, because this is not all that unusual with Ben. He treats me as if we’re celebrating something every day—some secret happiness shared between us always merits a reward— a cherry Sprite with real crushed cherries, or a drive with the windows down listening to the music we loved in college, an extra hour of watching our favorite show at bedtime, turning on the electric blanket on my side of the bed 20 minutes before I crawl between the sheets, a hot bath with my favorite bath salts added in even though I tell him not to, I don’t want to use it all up. He treats me in small ways every day that we’re together. And so this shouldn’t surprise me. But it does.

I gave him his modest little gift—a book he’s been wanting called Factory Man about the Vaughan-Bassett furniture factory that fought to stay alive and keep manufacturing in the United States. Mr. Bassett is a hero of Ben’s, and I wrote a little message for him on the title page, a little love note just like he always leaves for me in the books he gives.

Then he gave me our 8th anniversary book. If you’ve been visiting me here for a while, you know about the anniversary books. It started with his proposal, a handmade book asking me to be his wife in 2007. Every anniversary he makes them from that year’s traditional gift, one year the cover was paper, then cotton, leather, another year wood, another year flowers, then wool and copper. 8 years is linen and bronze, and while he used to give these to me on our wedding anniversary, these days it’s a Valentine surprise since November has found us harried and overwhelmed 2 years in a row. Every page documents the best moments from each month of our marriage, and every entry ends with “I love you.” Every year, the title art is the same, only the number changes. Every year I cry. He promises me that as long as I’m his girl, I’ll get these books. And he always keeps his promises.

And last, he gave me the most delicious dessert from the bakery. I’ll have dreams tonight about how good it was.

What would I do without you, Ben?