From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

The Heart and Cement of Texas

From the moment it is touched, the heart cannot dry up.

Louis Bourdaloue

Like so many of us, I grew up believing that a dozen red roses and a box of chocolates were a passable, if not ideal, Valentine’s Day present.

I was wrong.

Mutual friends introduced me to Alfred around Christmastime. We hit it off right from the start, and less than two months later, we’re only days away from celebrating our first Valentine’s Day together. How could we make it special?

“Have you ever done anything romantic for a woman? Ever?” I asked him. There was a thoughtful silence while he gazed aimlessly around my living room. “Nope. Can’t say that I have,” he drawled. Alfred is from Texas.

Now, if my question seems abrupt, it’s because my beloved Alfred is a superintendent in charge of building restaurants, and he has worked in construction most of his forty-something years of life. Based on stereotype, he loathes wearing business suits, spends a much-enjoyed portion of his day swapping dirty jokes with the guys, and can open a beer bottle with his toes since his hands are often too busy trying to unjam the door to the port-a-potty.

In short, male construction workers are not typically remembered for their romantic gestures toward women. At least, not the ones considered acceptable in polite society.

That same night, Alfred told me they would be pouring the sidewalks for his newest restaurant project the next day.

“You should carve our initials together in the wet cement,” I suggested, half serious and half in jest.

“Awww. Now that would be romantic, wouldn’t it?”

Two days later he invited me to the job site. “Besides havin’ lunch with me, there’s somethang I wanna show ya.”

As we walked around the restaurant on the newly dried sidewalks, he showed me where he’d carved my initials not only once, but in THREE DIFFERENT PLACES!

“Does this mean there’s something ‘concrete’ going on between us?” I joked. But the smile that just wouldn’t leave my face showed how happy his thoughtfulness had made me.

And during our special Valentine’s dinner that Saturday night, he presented me with a block of pinewood. Sounds pretty ordinary, I know. Except he’d jigsawed and sanded it into the shape of a heart.

“When did you do this?” I asked.

“This afternoon at work.”

“Did the other guys see you make this? Didn’t they tease you about it?”

“Heck, no. As a matter of fact, a couple of ’em wanted me to make them one for their sweethearts.”

“And did you?”

“No, ma’am. I made this ’specially for you. ’Cause I reckon I love ya.”

Then I realized that all the flowers, candy and God-only-knows what other kind of conventional presents could never compare to my custom-carved, heart-shaped, extraordinary piece of wood and my initials permanently etched in slabs of cement at a nearby restaurant.

In spite of all his subsequent denials, this crazy Texan had given me the most romantic Valentine’s Day gifts of my entire life.

Have I mentioned how much I love Texans?

Barbara Zukowski

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