February 14 had always been a bleak day of empty mailboxes and broken dreams for me. My very first Valentine’s Day after moving to a new town, I found a tremendous bouquet of flowers waiting for me at my front door.
I had been waiting for a moment such as this for almost 50 years. I galloped up the steps and tore at the green wrapping paper to find the card that would tell me that someone I’d met in my new home town actually loved me. I opened the little envelope and read, “Happy Valentine’s Day, from Melvin.” I paused. I couldn’t think of one eligible man in my generation with that name. In fact, I was hard put to remember any Melvin until I recalled the lovely young man who was the house manager for Stanford’s Lively Arts. I’d done a bit of ushering for him and he probably sent a bouquet to all the little old ladies who helped him. I sat down immediately and wrote him an effusive thank you note.
Two days later, there was a knock at my door. I opened it and Melvin stood on my front porch, his face red as a Valentine heart and a dozen roses in his hand.
“I didn’t send you flowers for Valentine’s Day, Miss Miller,” he said. “But I should have. You have been a wonderful help to me this year.” I thanked him. I hugged him. I plied him with cake and hot drinks and swore I would usher for him until that university crumbled to the ground. I kissed him goodbye and leaned against my front door and searched my memory in vain.
I didn’t know another Melvin.
Suddenly I remembered that cute carry-out boy at The Market. We always made jokes together and I teased him shamelessly. I hurried to the store and when darling little Melvin started to bag my groceries, I wrapped him in my arms and kissed him.
“Aren’t you precious!” I exclaimed.
“That bouquet of flowers was the nicest Valentine I have ever received!” And I was telling the absolute truth.
The trouble was I was telling the truth to the wrong man—or should I say, boy? Melvin was 12 years old.
While I was paying for my groceries, Melvin disappeared for a moment. He returned with an immense bouquet of daisies in his hand and a helium balloon that said “Be Mine.” He thrust both into my arms and picked up my bags of groceries.
“I meant to get these to you on time,” he lied. “But I wasn’t paid until this morning.” “I see,” I said.
I returned home and I wept. How could life could be so cruel? Somewhere in this world there was a man named Melvin who loved me enough to send me flowers and I didn’t have the faintest notion who he was. I called the florist who delivered my Valentine and asked who had ordered the mystery flowers. He explained that he was not allowed to divulge such information.
“What’s your first name?” I asked.
“Sebastian,” he said. “Sebastian O’Malley. Why do you ask?” I was too choked up to answer.
I stared at my three bouquets and then I stopped crying. I sat back and admired them. I inhaled their perfume and swore I would name my next dog Melvin.
I looked up in the general direction of heaven and said, “Oh, thank you, all you Melvins of the world! I will cherish the memory of my first Valentine triple header as long as I live!”
And I do.