Last week, on Valentine’s Day eve, I wrote a big mushy love card. I sealed it with lipstick and sprayed it with too much perfume. I baked beautiful mocha cupcakes and arranged them carefully in a box, separated by paper. I surveyed them. I would have liked to have taken that moment to contemplate the miracle of mutual love. I would also have liked to have made sure the cupcakes were ultra-secure and not prone to tipping. But I had no time for that. The post office was closing in 15 minutes.
The tale of the ill-fated Valentine’s box begins in inspiration and ends in ignominy. After zooming down our hills in my butter yellow car, I stepped into our one-room post office. I told Connie, the jovial woman behind the counter, to never mind the price. I was serious about Valentine’s Day, and I was serious about being on time—a lofty claim for someone who had waited until 4:45 on Feb. 13 to express her undying love.
But I was born into a last-minute house, to type-B parents amply supplied with that great force of nature, adrenaline. At my squalling, red-faced birth, I weighed about 6 pounds (precisely the poundage of this year’s Valentine’s box), and I like to think I have carried the last-minute disease in my bloodstream ever since. I do not really know where procrastination falls on the spectrum from sinful habit to DNA-determined, but I do know my brain works harder while hugging a deadline.
Connie invited me behind the counter to help her shove the cupcake box into a larger box and bend the enormous card to fit inside. I held the box, Connie held the tape, and together we wrapped it up snugly. Shipped express, it cost $36.86.
It arrived in Virginia the following day. But my fiancé’s school mailroom was closed due to weather, and wouldn’t be open again until after Presidents Day. That morning I cried into my scrambled eggs, hoping that after 20 or so years of marriage I would find myself less last minute and less weepy. But providentially the school newspaper went to press that day, which meant the mailroom next to the print room was unlocked long enough for him to get to the 6-pound package. I dried my tears. But the cupcakes, badly banged up from their journey south, were inedible.
I read last week in the Atlantic that writers are the worst procrastinators because they are terrified of ever producing something less than stellar. It is true, in my case. It is true for me in instances wholly unrelated to writing. I wanted to send the best Valentine’s gift ever. And every time I try to make something wonderful, I am taking a risk that it won’t be. And this time, it wasn’t wonderful—because I procrastinated.
This is the part of the story where I rejoice that my fiancé loves me not for my cupcakes but for myself.