Yesterday was Valentine's Day. Andy and I were together, which is not something we take for granted. Last year at this time, he was still deployed. That's sort of crazy, when you think of how quickly the time seems to have passed this year.
This year we are on a new budget- in honor of our first child arriving this summer, me quitting my job (in less than two weeks), moving with Andrew to Fort Benning, GA for the Captain's Career Course (in less than three weeks) and then me planning on stay-at-home motherhood for a while. How's that for laying it all out on the table? Anyway...as a result of this new budget, we decided to go easy this year on gifts for each other and on plans for the evening.
When we got home from work, we exchanged cards and our "little somethings." I gave Andrew chocolate covered strawberries from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and some chocolate covered pretzels (that I pilfered from work). He gave me Ghirardelli's Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Filling squares (my fave) and a voucher telling me that the new Sophie Kinsella novel, I've Got Your Number, which was just released on 2/14, is being delivered this Saturday! That boy knows what I love!
After our gift exchange, we headed out to a "crappy" Mexican restaurant in town. We chose it for our dinner date because I had a $25 gift certificate there, which was better than having to use all of our "Eating Out" budget at our favorite Mexican place. Plus, it had okay reviews on Yelp.
We were seated right away (no reservations required for this classy joint) and just as quickly changed our minds about the place. Although the atmosphere wasn't anything to write home about, the table next to us had just gotten their food. "Are you seeing what I'm seeing!?!" Their plates were probably 20 inches in diameter, the food looked delicious and their margarita glasses were the size of small watermelons. We had come to the right place. Andy had a HUGE beer to start, which was so heavy he could hardly lift it. I ordered the avocado chicken tostada, and he had a combo plate with a chicken chimichanga and an enchilda. Andy ate every bite on his plate, and I came close to doing the same (eating for two, holla)! It was so tasty! We sat back, stuffed, finishing our drinks and smiling. It was the best Valentine's dinner we could have hoped for. Little did we know it was about to get even better...
Andrew eventually called our waiter over to ask for the check. At that, the waiter leaned in to our table and said, "I want to tell you that the couple that was sitting to the left of you just paid for your meal. They told me to tell you thank you for your service, and they hoped you had a happy Valentine's Day." We looked at each other stunned. "Wait, are you serious?" 'Si. It has been taken care of.' We looked over to thank the couple, but they had already gone. Their random act of kindness could not have fallen on a more appreciative couple that night. Andrew, still in his ACUs from work, sat back in shock. No one had ever done anything like that for us before.
A gal, sitting next at the table next to us with her family, leaned over and was like, "That is so cool!! You guys are lucky!!" That's when it hit me. I started digging in my purse and whispering maniacally to Andy, "We have to pay it forward!!!!!" I pulled out our $25 gift certificate and thrust it at the girl, "You have to take this! We were going to use it for our dinner, but now we're paying it forward to you!" She was beaming. She even broke into a little speech: "My son actually has something to say, although he is really embarrassed. (he was shrinking under the table at this point) His teacher told him that there's something you need to say any time you see someone in uniform. Go on, son! Say it!" Her son pulled himself up from under the table, looked Andy right in the eye, and said, "Thank you for your service to our country, sir." It was all I could do to not burst into tears at the table.
When we got to the car, Andy couldn't stop saying how uncomfortable he felt, how embarrassed he was. I told him I didn't think he should be embarrassed at all. If anything we should feel proud that those people in the restaurant tonight were the people whose freedoms he was defending every day. They were the people he fought for when he was deployed. They were good people, who cared about other people and who took the time and effort to spread the love on Valentine's Day.
That generous couple gave my husband and me the perfect reminder this year. They reminded us to be grateful- grateful that we got to be together this year, when so many families were forced apart because of training and deployments; grateful that we live in such a fortunate country; grateful that we can afford to give back to our country; and grateful that we are surrounded by such exemplary fellow Americans.
I am incredibly proud and so incredibly grateful.