This month's find:

Satin and lace

After 48 years of marriage, Chester Taplette still delights in buying his wife Valentine's lingerie

February 10, 2007|By Abigail Tucker | Abigail Tucker,sun reporter

Younger men cower in the doorway of the lingerie store, but 74-year-old Chester Taplette practically gallops across the leopard-print carpet. He's been staking out this Frederick's of Hollywood in Glen Burnie's Marley Station Mall for weeks now, "scheming," he says, about which lacy item to buy for his Annie on their 48th Valentine's Day as husband and wife.

And because Annie has been his partner in every decision for nearly half a century now, why would he exclude her from this one? The 67-year-old follows a few steps behind her husband, her head swaddled in a scarf to conceal the curlers in her hair. Every so often she slips on her spectacles to examine a corset, smiling a smile that hasn't dimmed since the day they met.

Now Chester, pawing through the racks, has found what he's looking for: a skimpy satin and lace chemise, in light blue.

"I've been liking this set right here," the Glen Burnie man says. "How do you like that, baby?"

"Mmm," she says, appraising it. "Usually you buy me something red."

It's true. Every Valentine's Day he gives her an outfit the color of the fire he still feels, though the retired airman doesn't always wait for the holiday. In fact, he'll use almost any excuse to purchase slinky attire - a trip to Hawaii, a cruise to Canada or their frequent pilgrimages to a heart-shaped hot tub in the Poconos. He buys Annie nightgowns for when they're together, and for the rare times they're apart. He even mailed her something pretty the year he was stationed in Vietnam: a pajama set he'd found on a day off, as silky as he remembered her skin to be.

Across the store, Annie is waving something that's captured her fancy: a pale-pink marabou baby-doll number.

"Oh, please don't pick that one," Chester begs. "You'll never get me out of the house if you have that one."

Fifty years ago, he could never have imagined being so familiar, so bold. Annie remembers a polite young serviceman who became an uncommonly regular customer at her parents' barbecue restaurant in Texas. She assumed her mother's okra was the draw, not knowing that Chester

had glimpsed her working in the kitchen.

"Do you believe in love at first sight?" he inquired later, at a high school football game he'd taken her to. He asked her to marry him that same night. Now they have two children and six grandchildren, whose laminated pictures Annie keeps in her purse.

Lingerie is not the secret to their happiness. Thigh-highs and sequined bras help keep life spicy, but love at its best is more basic.

"It's all talking," Annie says. "Talk, talk, talk."

"You don't go to bed mad," Chester says. "You make sure to get your kiss."

Even the most revealing outfit is no substitute for a bared soul.

Chester ends up springing for three nightie sets - one in blue, one in red and a pink version thrown in for good measure - and a pair of black pajamas. The total comes to just $79.80, because it turns out that there's a sale on satin.

"Don't buy 'em just one item now, fellas," Chester, leaving, calls out to the wretched novices still browsing for Valentine's Day gifts near the front of the store. "They'll be angry. Get 'em one for the day and one for the night."

They are almost out the door when Annie's spectacled gaze falls on a lace-trimmed red robe.

"I'm gonna let you get this for me, too," she says.

And Chester relinquishes his credit card again, fairly confident of his goodnight kiss.

abigail.tucker@baltsun.com

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