Owner Leonard DeRouen places fosythia into a bouquet of roses and other flowers in preparation for Valentine's Day Wednesday, February 13, 2019, at Roy-Al Flower and Gift in Lafayette, La. 

Valentine’s Day, which arrives on Friday, is a time to put an exclamation point on love — using vivid gestures, like roses, chocolates or candles, to tell that special someone how much you care.

I’m all for that, though after a quarter-century of marriage, I’ve learned that marital affection sometimes speaks in quieter ways hardly anyone else can hear.

I was reminded of that last year, when my wife and I took an overseas trip to celebrate our silver anniversary. We spent most of our time in London, setting aside a day for a train trip to Paris. My wife wondered whether we should go to Paris at all, since I had already been there as a young man. But as I told her, I was a single then, and it’s often said that you haven’t really been to Paris unless you’ve gone there when you’re in love.

So we boarded the Eurostar early one morning and threaded our way beneath the English Channel, arriving in the City of Lights in time to scout out lunch and visit a handful of landmarks. As we locked arms to stroll along a stone bridge crossing the Seine, I knew the journey had been worth it.

But there’s another memory of our trip that doesn’t seem like a candidate for a Facebook post or a family album, though it says as much to me about marriage as anything else. Back in London, we stayed in a small flat we’d rented because it was cheaper than a hotel. The flat included a washer, but no dryer. A note told us to instead use a drying rack from the closet.

The only practical place to unfold the rack was the living room. That’s where we set up our indoor version of a clothesline, stringing up jeans and shirts, socks and underwear to make what looked like either an avant-garde art installation or the strangest Christmas tree of all.

Our laundry chores done, we had dinner on the couch, watching the BBC as my freshly washed boxer shorts dangled indecently beneath a vintage chandelier. My wife didn’t bat an eye at the absurdity of it all, a testament of sorts to how marriage changes you. Over time, you learn to accept all kinds of intimacy — not only the boldly romantic variety, but the humbler forms of closeness that come to feel intuitive.

Ted Kooser, a Nebraska poet, described this reality more beautifully than I ever could in one of my favorite poems, “Splitting an Order.” It’s about an old couple sharing a roast beef sandwich at a restaurant, a ritual apparently repeated so often that it looks like a matter of reflex. As I mentioned in a 2015 column, the couple’s communion over lunch seems almost sacramental.

It’s not the kind of connection that gets much attention on Valentine’s Day, but it might be the deepest love of all.

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