On Valentine’s Day somewhere between 25 and 30 years ago, I crafted a home-made card for João.
It took forever to get the image sitting just right on the page. Back then, graphics programs were primitive at best, and printers were whimsical and stubborn. I finally got the tri-fold A4 brochure-type card perfect. The words matched the image and the phrase emblazoned on it already had meaning for us. I was pleased with the result, although it did push the boundaries on my usual tolerance for cuteness.
I presented the card on the appointed day to João with an almost childlike pride. As she was opening the envelope she was all smiles, and obviously felt gratified that I had made a special effort.
When she saw the image, her face grew hard. She tossed the card aside, without looking at the loving message inside. Not the reaction I was expecting.
“It’s a hippo!” she exclaimed, all upset, as if that explained everything. I was upset too. After much impassioned convincing, she finally conceded that it was a lovely, thoughtful thing to do, and we wished each other happy Valentine’s Day.
A few nights ago, I came across the card, tucked away with other treasures, as I was leafing through João’s Bible in search of a couple of her favourite passages, duly underlined. Aha! Decades later, I discovered that she did like the card after all.
Needless to say, every year since, we have given each other our best hippo impersonation of “I love you this much!” As I gave João her red, heart-shaped antirrhinums this morning, it was clear— bedridden and weak though she is—that the hippo in a pink tutu has not been forgotten.
©2017 Allison Wright