Valentine’s Day Ambush

Valentine’s Day Ambush

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Valentine’s Day Ambush

The beauty of fragrance is that it speaks to your heart . . . and hopefully someone else’s.

~Elizabeth Taylor

Valentine dinners with my parents became a thing of the past once I was old enough to date. Still, before heading out for the evening, I always received a sweet card and possibly a small gift. Upon returning home later, I indulged in my fair share of whatever homemade, mouth-watering dessert Mom had prepared for the occasion. Typically, it was a layered cake baked in heart-shaped pans, a scrumptious treat she served each year.

During my senior year of high school, Kansas was under siege on Valentine’s Day, with a winter storm blasting its way across the plains. School was dismissed early and “puppy love” dates were cancelled. For the first time in a few years, I’d be celebrating with my parents. Amazingly, it made a real impression on me.

Mother had prepared Dad’s favorite meal for dinner, but as the storm intensified she began to watch the clock and pace the floor.

“I’m really getting worried. With this weather I knew your dad would be a little late getting home, but not this late!” She busied herself keeping dinner warm, determined not to burn anything, but continued her march to and fro, glancing out the windows for headlights.

As a self-absorbed teenager, I continued with my phone conversation until I heard the door open and Mother wailing, “Oh, where have you been? I’ve just been worried sick!”

I rounded the corner to see Dad with his arms full of flowers and a box of chocolates. He smiled, “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey!” Mom threw her arms around him causing him to juggled gifts while trying graciously to accept Mom’s embrace.

The bouquet of flowers took center stage on the table as we seated ourselves for dinner.

I reached for my napkin and spied a small package by my plate that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. “What’s this?” I asked, filled with excitement and surprise.

“Just open it!” Dad’s brilliant blue eyes sparkled with mischief.

I ripped the package open and could barely speak; it was a new bottle of Ambush cologne, quite a popular and affordable scent for teenagers at that time.

“Dad! Did you buy this all by yourself?” I squealed.

“Well, just kind of. It took some help from the clerk — actually it took a lot of help!”

I was stunned beyond belief. A Valentine gift purchased by Dad. I gave him a bear hug and a big kiss!

“You know I’ve seen that perfume around here forever and figured I could remember the name if I thought about Western movies. You know how they’re always ambushing one another. Well, everything was fine until the clerk asked me what brand . . . I told her Apache.”

“Apache!” I giggled until I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

Dad informed me it really wasn’t that funny at all. The clerk insisted there was no such cologne, while he swore there was. They went back and forth until he decided maybe he had forgotten the name — but made it clear he would recognize the smell his daughter obviously bathed in. That’s when the “misting marathon” began.

“It wasn’t long until I started to sneeze non-stop. My nose began to run, and I almost got sick from so many smells. Just when I thought I’d have to take a break outside in the fresh air before continuing, the clerk suddenly hit on it!”

Dad said he smiled at the clerk through the sneezing. “That’s it, that’s it! Thank you for your time ma’am.” Then he charged out the door toward his car through an all-out blizzard.

Never once have I asked Dad what possessed him to buy me a gift that year. I suspect it had something to do with the realization that my days under his roof were quickly coming to an end.

Roses, teddy bears, and cupids abound each February, creating fond memories. As for me, I have comical but precious memories of my Valentine’s Day Ambush! They reside in a special niche in my heart.

~Kathleene S. Baker

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