Amanda Barber

Stories, songs, and thoughts on life.

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My Funny Valentine

15 February 2022

In the two or three days leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, I found myself singing My Funny Valentine a lot. It’s such a pretty, sweet little song.

My funny Valentine,

Sweet, comic Valentine

You make me smile with my heart

Your looks are laughable


Yet you’re my favorite work of art

Is your figure less than Greek?

Is you mouth a little weak?

When you open it to speak

Are you smart?

But don’t change a hair for me

Not if you care for me

Stay little Valentine stay

Each day is Valentine’s Day

It’s kind of a special song to me, since my valentine is a little goofy. Most gals think of the ideal man as tall, dark, muscular and handsome. My husband is short, stubby, prematurely grey and balding. And I adore him. Unlike the song, when he opens his mouth to speak he IS smart. My husband is quite a brilliant man. He does complicated equations for fun, taught himself software development, reads and comprehends legislation, and is usually one sharp cookie. But every once in a while, he makes some spectacularly dreadful blunders. Like that one time he left his wallet in the car while we rushed to catch a flight and we ended up in San Francisco for three days without any money. At all.

Several of these blunders have happened on Valentine’s Day. In fact, I’m getting the strong feeling that February 14 is just a bad date for us. There was the February 14 of ‘15 where he sent me a video of himself singing “Low and Lonely for Little You” which was positively dreadful. Yes, the very song Mr. Darling of The Andy Griffeth Show sang to Aunt Bee after he fell in love with her cooking.

Then there was the February 14 of ‘16, the whole of which I spent confined to the house with my first UTI since childhood–fever, bladder ache, running to the toilet every five minutes and the whole nine yards. Then there was the February 14 of ‘17 in which he promised to take me out to dinner. But he forgot you have to make a reservation on Valentine’s Day. By the time early evening rolled around and I was all dressed up, we went all over town to find a place to eat with no luck. They were all full up. Except for this shady Chinese take out joint. So we got bad Chinese, took it back to our Airbnb room (we were in Columbia for the legislative session) and ate it on the bed. The whole evening, Jonathon berated himself for not thinking ahead, and I couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity of the situation and tried to cheer him up. Then I ended up crying, as women will do, quite irrationally. The next Valentine’s Day, I was on antibiotics for Lyme, wandering around like a space cadet with the ever-so-typical Lymey brain fog. And so on, and so forth…

This Valentine’s Day, though. Well…it took the cake and smeared it all over the place. But, for you to understand how what happened could have possibly occurred, I have to back up slightly.

Jonathon’s brother is a naval officer and will be heading out on his first deployment soon. His little wifey is going to have their first baby this spring, and she and the baby are going to come and stay with us while hubby is on deployment. (It’s going to be fun!) Anyway, we decided to look for a larger home to accommodate the extra people, found one last week, and made an offer on the place which, to my surprise, was accepted. We are now under contract for our new house. This contract, however, is contingent on selling our current home. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to afford it. Cue the insanity. I sell used clothes on Postmark and I have over a thousand listings. All 1030+ items of clothing were in the back half of the house. And we had to get all of that out of the house and into a storage unit in three days before Monday so we could take pictures of the house and get it listed.

We busted our little tails, packing, decluttering, clearing, fixing, and cleaning. By Monday afternoon, we had accomplished the near impossible! The house looked amazing, and we had an hour to spare before our realtor showed up to take photos. This is when the event that shall live in infamy had its conception.

It was sunny, windy, and around 2:00 PM, the humidity dropped dramatically. It was around this time, that Jonathon decided to take the paper and cardboard out of the recycling bin and burn it. This is standard procedure around here. The humidity in South Carolina is prodigious and burning cardboard is usually a perfectly common and safe thing to do. If Jonathon had been a bit more well-rested and a little less in a hurry, he would have recognized that this day was not a good day to burn stuff. But he was not well-rested, time was pressing, and…he just wasn’t thinking. He put it all on the burn pile and got the fire started. It burned down quickly to a smolder and he made the fatal error of going back inside to check on something in the attic.

Meanwhile, I had decided to go out in the yard and pick up dog doo. Argos and Bob drop a lot of that. I was shoveling away and trying not to smell any, when I heard what sounded like running water. I paused to listen, and the sound dissipated. Back to shoveling. Then I heard it again. Suddenly, I realized it was not the sound of water running at all. It was the sound of flames licking up dry grass.

“Oh, no, no, no, NO!”

I dropped my shovel and sprinted to the back door so I could call Jonathon. It was locked. So, I took a flying leap/clammer/fumble over the fence and tore around to the other door.

“Jonathon! The fire is spreading! Come now!”

Imagine, if you will, a small fire. Then imagine that fire spreading in the shape of an ever-widening ring outwards towards your house, the woods in back, and your neighbors house simultaneously. I tore into the front yard, turned on the front spigot and fumbled around with the hose until Jonathon took over and dragged it as fast as he could go. Of course, it didn’t reach far enough. Meanwhile, I started a little jig, stomping out the fire with my Converse-clad feet.

“Amanda, call 911!”

So, there we were stomping out fire as fast as we could go, while I talked to the dispatcher, giving my address and name. It felt like absolutely forever. We stopped the fire right in front of the tree line. I shudder to think how all that underbrush would have gone up in flame if we hadn’t been able to stomp it out in time.

“Ma’am, you said your address was 131 Double Springs Rd?”


Stomp, stomp, stomp!

“We have to sell this house,” I was thinking to myself. “This house is NOT burning down. Oh, my! The neighbor’s house.”

“Amanda, go get a blanket! We have to smother this.”

Off I ran. The blanket helped until it melted. Finally, I saw flashing lights, and our fantastic local firefighters arrived. Jonathon and I leaned, panting, chocking, and coughing against the jeep while the professionals doused out the rest. Jonathon apologized to me about thirty times.

“I am so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking!”

Once the firefighters left, this is what the lot next our house looked like:

This is what my shoes looked like:

We were so, so relieved. And so, so thankful. There were about twenty different ways that whole situation could have gone south. If I hadn’t decided to go out and scoop up Bob and Argos’ landmines… If one or both of us had caught fire in the process of stomping it out. If the dogs had gotten out… If the fire had reached our house or the woods or the neighbor’s house… Oh, Lord above, thank you! The only injury to ourselves was smoke inhalation, and my foot got slightly scorched.

Not thirty minutes after that, and before I’d had a chance to wipe the soot off my face, the realtor showed up. I greeted him with a grin and told him we’d just put out a fire. He thought that was funny and then said, “Oh, like a literal fire…” as he suddenly noticed the charred grass next to the driveway. Yeah, a literal fire.

The next two hours were taken up with moving everything off the kitchen counters and shuffling stuff around for pictures. Then the realtor laid out a list of things to accomplish before the first showing today: calk this, nail down that, clean up this ya filthy animals. By the time he left, it was 7:00, and it was time to take our wheezy, smokey selves to the second most romantic location on Valentine’s Evening–Lowes. It was here that my funny Valentine got down on one knee and offered me a bouquet of assorted caulks.

Then we headed to the MOST romantic location on Valentine’s Evening–Walmart. The realtor, you see, had told us that we ought to get some wax heaters to make the place smell ultra homey. It works wonders on potential buyers, apparently. Walmart being the only place open at 9:00 PM around here, to Walmart we went.

“Where do we find these wax smelly things?” Jonathon asked me.

“Home Living,” I replied.

“We’ve been doing a lot of that,” he remarked.

“We’ve been keeping the home fires burning,” I said.

And then I embarrassed myself by laughing like a banshee, whooping, tears streaming down my cheeks. People stared. I was too tired and wheezy to care.

From thence, to home. Our home that was still standing and not burnt. We got in the bathtub to sooth our sore muscles whilst eating ice cream and brownies. And we wheezed some more and coughed up the rest of the smoked we inhaled earlier. Then we hit the sack. Hard. I haven’t fallen asleep that fast in a long time.

And that, dear friends, was our Valentine’s Day.

I love my funny Valentine. Our lives are never dull. Our days are full of craziness and changing plans and looming deadlines. But I’m so glad we get to go through our days together. And it turns out, we make a pretty good team when there’s a fire on the loose.

An orchid from Jonathon. We got it at Lowes.