Valentine's Day – and Love in particular – is a fairly simple and straightforward concept for Dava Cooley Ainsworth, a local barista and college student.
The 20-year-old has been married to her one true love, husband Walker Ainsworth, for a couple of years now. But the couple first met at a Valentine's Day dance in Madison, Mississippi when both were around 12.
Dava said she gets a real kick out of being in Love with her husband.
"Love makes you giggly," Dava said. "It's like butterflies all the time. It's missing someone who hasn't been gone for five minutes. Love is being completely respectful of another person and putting their needs before your own. With Walker, he's not the best at saying it, but he's excellent at showing me how he feels."
Observed on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, remaining a working day in most of them.
Dava's first definitive Valentine's Day experience – even at the tender age of 12 – was to meet Walker, who she pretty much considers to be the perfect guy.
Smooth-talking, good-looking, and just off-center enough to be believable, Walker seemed like he had it all when she first met him. Certainly enough to give Dava goose pimples.
"I remember our first dance was at the end of the night to that song 'Closing Time,'" Dava said. "My best friend had introduced me to him."
Apparently, the dance went well for both of them. Dava's first kiss, with Walker, followed shortly thereafter.
However, after that night, the two were basically forced to become "just friends" because at the time Dava was an ice skater in training.
And, well – Dava was 12.
Not exactly old enough to balance a boyfriend with her everyday responsibilities.
"My parents weren't that fond of the idea," she said with a laugh.
Dava and Walker – who was out of pocket and could not be reached to comment Tuesday – remained really good friends for about six years. But they romantically reunited years later after they both had moved to Jacksonville.
"When I was 17, we decided we were a really good match," she said.
So Walker courted Dava for awhile. And in March 2010, popped the question while the two were at a sushi picnic at Lover's Lookout. The 30-mile view of East Texas' favorite high place proved to be the perfect backdrop.
Just as the couple were about to leave the area, Walker got down on his right knee, pulled out a ring, and proposed.
It was a very emotional moment for Dava, who quickly teared up.
"I don't think I even let him finished proposing before I said, 'Yes!'" she said with a smile.
Dava is not a fan of diamonds. ("They're overrated," she said.) So her engagement ring sported sapphires – five blue and four white. She still wears that ring.
Dava did have an idea a proposal was forthcoming before it actually happened. Weeks earlier Walker's best friend started asking her uncharacteristic questions about the size of her ring finger and the type of rings she liked. Dead giveaway.
Dava and Walker were married eight months after he proposed, on Oct. 15, 2011 at Jacksonville's Trinity Episcopal Church. Dava's sister Danielle Cooley, 24, was maid of honor.
The Ainsworths now have a beautiful little 2-year-old daughter, Layla. Dava works as a barista at Jacksonville's PhoenixSquare Deli & Coffee Shop and attends college in Tyler. Walker works as a local carpenter.
With her thoughts on Valentine's Day, Dava said Love, to her, can feel like the answer to a long awaited question. (Especially if one's husband is a traditional southern gentleman like hers.)
And Valentines Day symbols, such as red roses? They're great and beautiful and all, but they're not the meaning of love, Dava said.
"You don't have to buy someone roses to prove you love them — although it's always nice," she said.
The Ainsworths have many years of happiness ahead of them. But Jacksonville is also home to many happy couples whose marriages can be measured in decades.
For instance, Joe and Vicki Weaver have been Valentines for 50 years. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Feb. 2 at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville. They renewed their vows in the sanctuary there and received a reception in the Fellowship Hall. Many guests attended.
Vicki Weaver's definition of Love is very similar to Dava's.
"I would say it means caring for someone no matter what the situation," Vicki Weaver said. "You always put that other person first. Also, we've always kept a sense or humor in our marriage, which I think is very important.
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