The first few years of Valentine's Day gifts are easy. Flowers, chocolates, a sweet or funny card — when love is new, so is everything that goes with it.
But what do you give for your 75th Valentine's Day as a married couple?
Carlyn and Irv Ungar wish each other a happy anniversary.
They were married on Valentine's Day in 1938. Seventy-five years later, they are still married.
Irv is 99; Carlyn turns 99 next month. They are music lovers, theatergoers, devoted members of Temple Sholom in Chicago and happy inhabitants of a sun-drenched condo off Lake Shore Drive.
They live on their own, are in full possession of their highly enjoyable wits and are happy to share the story of their Valentine's Day marriage.
It began casually. They were sophomores at the University of Wisconsin, and Irv's fraternity was planning a party for George Washington's birthday and invited the girls from Carlyn's sorority.
Carlyn didn't have a date. "So at the fraternity, they said, 'That Carlyn girl doesn't have a date. Why don't you ask her?'" Carlyn said. "So he did."
And that, pretty much, was that.
"In those days, once you went out with a guy, you were going steady," Carlyn said.
They were glad to be doing so. They enjoyed each other's company. They were outgoing sorts and liked knowing they had someone to go out with every weekend.
"I don't know," Irv said, looking at Carlyn. "It just became ..."
"It was a habit," Carlyn said. "It felt very natural."
The habit continued to grow for five years, after they graduated and returned to their respective hometowns: Irv to Chicago, where he got a job as an advertising copywriter and Carlyn to Atlanta, where she trained to be a lab technician.
On New Year's weekend of 1937, she was working at a hospital on Staten Island when Irv came to New York to visit.
At some point over the weekend, "We said, why don't we get married?" Carlyn said.
"That was just about it," Irv said. "I don't even remember the details."
There was no dramatic, elaborately planned proposal?
There was not. "We just evolved into thinking, well, maybe we can make a go of it," Carlyn said.
Still, the idea of getting married on Valentine's Day — wasn't that a sweet, romantic notion?
It was a mnemonic device. "I figured Valentine's Day is no big deal, but there will always be enough publicity that I'll remember our anniversary," Irv said.
They were married in Atlanta. Back in Chicago, they settled in the Lakeview neighborhood, where they raised their two children.
Irv became a salesman in the photography industry. Carlyn, an avid summer camper as a child, became the waterfront director at her Wisconsin camp, and later director of girls camps in Montana and Colorado. She also sang as a tenor with the Grant Park Chorus, and then for 10 years with the Chicago Symphony Chorus.
Irv traveled for business. Carlyn spent every summer away at camp. That turned out well.
"The secret of our marriage is that he traveled a lot and I was away," she said. "I think space is very important. Privacy is a good thing for a marriage."
But it isn't the only good thing.
Sitting at their dining room table over tea and Carlyn's sour cream coffeecake, you could see others.
Irv looked over at Carlyn frequently as he talked. Carlyn put a hand on Irv's arm. The apartment was warm, and not just because of the sun streaming through the picture windows.
Still, they are human. How do they avoid getting snappy with one another?
Actually, "we are snappy sometimes," Carlyn said.
Are they ever bored?
"Oh, we are," Irv said cheerfully.
How do they keep up the conversation?
"There are times when we find we've talked about everything we can think of," Carlyn said. "But then we start reminiscing about traveling. We did a lot of traveling after the children graduated from college, and I kept a diary every night of 33 different trips."
And at 75 years, a marriage also proves its worth. Irv fell and broke his hip in 2010 and faced serious health problems afterward. Through it all, "Carlyn has been here 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.
"What makes a marriage work is dedication," he said. "It's that old question of for better or for worse."
"Marriage isn't 50/50; it's 60/40," Carlyn said. "If you stop at 50/50, there's a gap. If everybody gives 60/40, there's overlap."
And it helps to maintain perspective.
"If something is bothering you today," she said, "get a good night's sleep and it'll be better tomorrow."
The Ungars will receive a blessing at Temple Sholom on Friday night. Their daughter, son and daughter-in-law are coming in from out of town to help celebrate.
Valentine's Day can be loud and glittery and lend itself to the grand gesture. But here's to love that grows quietly and steadily, filling two lives for 75 years.
Irv and Carlyn don't buy each other gifts for Valentine's Day — they save gift-giving for birthdays — but they seem to have all they want.