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On Valentine's Day, as with many holidays, you're expected to feel a certain way. On Valentine's Day you're expected to feel romantic, whether you want to or not. On Valentine's Day you're expected to sample chocolates with mysterious, frightening centers. But perhaps the worst? part of Valentine's Day is the kooky, nonperishable gifts you sometimes receive.

My mom has an answer to these sorts of gifts; she has a wonderous file system called her dresser. And I have labeled the bottom, left-hand drawer affectionately, The Black Hole.

If you think Disney World is the "happiest place on Earth," then you haven't rummaged through my mom's dresser drawer. This is where she keeps clothing that my dad has given her. These things are to be seen, marveled upon, gawked at, and terrified by. But NEVER, EVER, not in a million-billion-to-the-second-root years, to be worn. It holds the most amazing assortment of stuff, all in shocking colors of turquoise, pink, orange, and of course, red.

One year, my dad presented my mom with a red polka-dot bikini. I'll tell it to you straight; I just don't know what this guy was thinking. My mom was over forty-five, had many children (she practically "lived in a shoe"), and well, her personality type is not of the 'red polka-dot bikini' variety ..umm... she has standards. She has a terrific figure, mind you, but red polka-dot bikinis are just not her. No, no, and furthermore, no.

When I saw this gift I wanted to laugh, but you see, my eyes were all bugged out, my jaw was dropped, my face was flush, and I was shocked. Besides, my dad's feelings were at stake and so, I could not. Later, just as soon as I was able, I did have a good laugh though.

I scanned my mom's face while she opened this, this treasure. I tried to detect horror or at least embarrassment. But none was there. I thought she had the countenance of a CIA agent to be able to conceal her feelings so well. She looked at the gift, thanked my dad with dignity, put it on top of the dresser, where it remained for a few days, then filed it.

I assumed she simply forgave him for his incredibly poor taste in gift selecting. But over time, I've come to realize what she must have known all along; that the gifts he gives her are a reflection of how he sees her. He sees her not as an older woman, with "so many children she doesn't know what to do," but he sees her as a red polka-dot bikini-type of woman. Hardly reason to forgive him.

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