Creating another Valentine's Day to remember - Albuquerque Journal

Creating another Valentine’s Day to remember

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times.

We plan to spend less this Valentine’s Day on those we love than we did last year, the average allowance for amor falling from a record $146.84 to $136.57, according to the National Retail Federation.

The organization also predicts that just 54 percent of Americans plan to celebrate the holiday Tuesday.

We’re giving love a bad name, people.

So once again we turn our lonely eyes to the South Valley man who puts the O! in romance. When it comes to Valentine’s Day, Lonnie Anderson is the king of hearts.

Anne Bolger-Witherspoon, his wife of 16 years, is his queen and possibly the luckiest woman in the world on Feb. 14 and, I suspect, most of the other 364 days of the year.

Love Anderson-style is always a grand gesture, though that does not mean he spends a grand. You’ll find no diamond as big as a cabbage on his wife’s finger, no fancy gourmet dinner, no bouquets of long-stem roses, though there was that year Anderson crafted 30-feet-tall flowers for her out of cardboard and butcher paper.

And then there was the year he rented a working carousel and set it up in his yard for a night. The year he spelled out one of e.e. cummings’ longer poems in pebbles across a dirt lot. The year he organized a high school prom. Or built a 15th-century throne. Or a giant box of Sweethearts candies. The year he got people from around the world – including war-torn Syria – to hold up “I Love Anne” signs and send the photos to her.

Last year in this column, he debuted a mural he painted of a pink Sweetheart candy imprinted with the name ANNE that covered the side of a building near Tapia and Goff SW.

He pondered what to do this year while at Deep Space Coffee at Fifth and Central SW. Maybe it was the caffeine, maybe it was the beatnik vibe of the place, but Anderson’s thoughts turned to poetry.

“My idea was to have a private poetry reading for my wife in this coffee shop,” said Anderson, who owns a graphic design firm and works with at-risk youth. “So I talked to one of the owners, Solve Maxwell, told him my idea and he was super supportive.”

There was just one hitch.

“I’m not that great of a poet,” he chuckles.

So he thought maybe he could convince a local poet to recite a love poem to his wife in a private reading at the coffee shop. And if he could convince one poet, maybe he could convince two poets. And if two poets, maybe three.

After 2½ months of convincing, he had nine poets signed up, each of them willing to share their poem either in person or by video Sunday night at the coffee shop.

And not just any poets but some of the best. Rudolfo Anaya. Jimmy Santiago Baca. Carlos Contreras. Former Albuquerque poets laureate Hakim Bellamy and Jessica Helen Lopez and current poet laureate Manuel González and his daughter Sarita Sol González.

Even Sherman Alexie and Joy Harjo, both who live nowhere near Albuquerque, agreed to appear by video.

Rounding out the reading will be the couple’s eldest daughter, Hawthorn, 12. Youngest daughter, Cheyenne, 9, is in charge of making cupcakes.

“I’m still so in awe that everybody was so super excited to do this,” said Anderson, who sounds super excited as he speaks. “These are world renown amazing poets reciting love poems for my wife. I mean, wow! I kind of do these things and never know how they will turn out.”

But then, they always eventually turn out beautifully. Love, even in these turbulent times, is contagious.

“It seems like everything is so negative crazy these days,” he said. “But when you mention love it brings out something awesome in people.”

Anderson reminds me that the reason he is so committed to making Valentine’s Day a big deal for his wife is because of a vow he made years ago that he would never let her feel the same pain he saw in his grandmother’s eyes every year when other women at work gushed over the candies and flowers their beaus sent them and she received nothing. The man she had been married to for 50 years and had given seven children to didn’t believe in gifts.

And Anderson reminds you that it doesn’t take a lot of money to come up with ways to say, “I love you.”

“We get into this thing where we think we have to spend all this money or go to Walgreens the night before when all it takes is just a little time and thought for the person you love,” he said. “This is the most important person in your life. Do something. Do anything. People forget that when you show you care, really show you care, in whatever way that is, that’s what matters.”

And that’s a pretty good sign.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to to submit a letter to the editor.


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