As if you needed me to tell you, Valentine’s Day is this Friday. As with most of our holidays, all the hype is pushed at us weeks, and sometimes even months, in advance. Those marketing wizards want to get at us early, and hit us hard. It’s all about Hallmark and Hershey’s. And if you pay attention to the ads, it’s almost as if they suck you into a competition built upon how much you spend on your sweetie, and not how uniquely romantic you can be. And the main focus of Heart Day is always on the couples. Dinner for two. Flowers, champagne, and a hotel room with a hot tub in it.
After spending many an awkward Valentine’s Day “single”, I’ll tell you that I’ve decided that Valentine’s Day is a holiday to celebrate LOVE. And love doesn’t have to be about couples. Love can be about parents, children, siblings, friends, grandparents, dogs, cats, nieces, nephews, neighbors, bosses, colleagues, and even strangers. You don’t have to be the 5th wheel with your couples friends, or the lonely spinster who sits at home watching Love Story on Valentine’s Day. You can celebrate love.
Now I’ll admit right up front that I LOVE some Willy Wonka Sweet Tart Conversation Hearts, or a good old box of chocolates. But my most fond memories of Valentine’s Day are from when I was a kid in school. We brought in shoe boxes to decorate with crepe paper and glue to hold our valentines. We made or bought our valentines and created or signed each with great care. We licked the little envelopes that tasted like peppermint (sort of) and wrote the names of our classmates on them. We put them in a lunch sack and took them to school, so excited to see what our classmates and teacher thought of our offerings, and really excited to see how many valentines would be in our own boxes at the end of the day.
Those were the days when we could actually have a party in our classroom on such occasions. It was still deemed safe to consume home-baked cookies and cupcakes, which our “room mothers” made for the party. And red food coloring was a given. So were those silver ball sprinkles that now are outlawed due to their metallic content. We played party games…maybe seeing how many words you could find in the phrase “HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY”, or musical chairs, or hangman. We delivered our valentines, and then got to open our boxes and read all of the valentines that we had received. Then we tucked them back in the box, and took them home to show our parents. We admired them for quite some time, and if you were me, you even tucked the special ones in your scrapbook. (And your scrapbook was a paper binder that you taped or glued things into, with no special pages, no digital photographs printed with fancy borders and captions, and no miniature trinkets to glue around the photos.)
When we were kids, Valentine’s Day was about showing your “love” for your friends. The most “romantic” thing about it might have been giving a special valentine to someone you had a crush on, but it wasn’t yet about flowers, kissing, lingerie, and jewelry. You could even see your way to giving valentines to those kids in your class that weren’t really your friends. The exchange of valentines was an act of thoughtfulness…an expression of caring…and, yes, sometimes the big reveal of a secret crush.
Well, this Friday I am going to celebrate love in the spirit of my childhood. I’m going to gather up the four-leggeds and hug them. Maybe I’ll give them some special kitty and doggie treats, and a special dinner. I’m going to speak with my friends, give them hugs (if possible), and tell them how much I love them. I’m going to call my brother (which will probably shock him, and get me some “contact points”) and maybe reminisce about some old Valentine’s Day memories. And I will likely give some cool valentines to some of my friends, even if we don’t have crepe paper-covered shoe boxes. I won’t be at the Red Lobster having the Twin Tails for Two, or at the Radisson busting open the champagne in the hot tub. I’ll be right here, showering my loved ones with love.