I have a confession to make. I don’t get it. Well, I should say that I don’t get all of it. Every February 14 rolls around and I get caught up in the trappings of all this pink and red and fluffy feel-good stuff. That’s quite a feat for someone who doesn’t actively participate in warm fuzzy feel-good sports. Despite the illness I feel at watching the fleece footie pajama commercials played back to back with the four foot Vermont Teddy Bear spots, I still woke up this morning compelled to wish Gary a happy Valentine’s Day. Afterwards, I made a dash to my Facebook wall to see all the goodies that were doled out to my fellow females, “liked” every “Happy Valentine” status I ran across, and posted a few of my own. There was a sign of relief that none of my friends were wearing those pepto bismol pink footie pajamas while snuggled up to a giant teddy bear. I think I’d have to un-friend them. My Aunt did hit a home run when she posted a photo of a leaf with a little heart shaped hole in it, sporting the caption “Happy Veggietine Day”. Meanwhile, back in the real world, there are dozens of Valentine colored, heart shaped balloons festooning the drive to the floral shop next to my office while the steady stream of flowers roll out the back door and into their fleet of happy-vans with less than happy looking drivers. The whole scene made me want to stay out of sight, in case there were little cherubs hiding inside those balloons and flowers who wanna stick it to Ms. Valentine grumpy-pants with those pointy little arrows.
As a child, I’d go to school with my stack of valentines and hand them out to my class mates. One year we decorated shoe boxes, covering them in pink, white and red tissue paper, little heart stickers, and glitter, complete with a slit for the cards to go in. And every year, my mother would pick up enough Valentines to give each kid in that class one. And every year, I would sit at the table addressing envelopes and saving the icky ones for the kids I wasn’t crazy about. At the time, I thought I was the bee’s knees and that all the other kids couldn’t possibly be putting me on their icky card list. But as soon as I hit middle school, the light bulb came on – I’m sure I got as many icky ones as I gave. Every where you went, you’d find those sickeningly sweet chalk candy hearts with feel good words on each one. As I grew up and grew awkward, I was faced with an allergic reaction to those school dances to celebrate this romantic holiday. There never really was much of a place on the dance floor for a chubby freckle faced geek in glasses and braces.
So began a long standing tradition in my life of just sort of glazing over this time every year, regardless of my romantic status. When my son was in school, I continued my Mom’s long standing tradition by sending him off with his cards, and on occasion, baking some sweet confections to deliver to the party. A mother’s love comes with blinders sometimes. I never saw an icky card in the stack he brought home and those candy hearts he handed to me spoke profound beautiful words and didn’t taste like chalk.
Keith and I never really celebrated this day in the traditional sense either. He always wished his first wife a happy Valentines Day via email since this was their wedding day. Then he’d wait till after Valentines and raid the candy aisle to take advantage of the half price sale. That was about it. That was all I wanted from someone who showed me love every day. My first Valentine without him was spent doing two things. Emailing his first wife to wish her a happy Valentines Day and then sitting in my office with a box full of cards I’d made, sifting through them to pick out what I would have sent him if we had been the sort of couple that celebrated. All the while, I was asking myself why was it now that I wanted to send him a card? Simply because I couldn’t?
Basically, Valentines Day started off as a violent Roman fertility festival which morphed into marking the anniversary of St. Valentine’s martyrdom and eventually evolved into Hallmark doing the happy dance. If you’re alone, you are reminded of it. If you’re partnered up, there is this nagging sensation that you have to do something or buy something. As always, I look to my parents as the supreme example on how to survive a commercial holiday. They are among the millions currently without power from this recent storm. So for Valentines Day, they are keeping each other warm by the fire. Dad’s managed to use their generator to give Mom hot showers, refrigeration, and enough power to visit the internet so she can see my Happy Valentines to her. Now that’s romantic. The kind of romance that can’t fit on a card, or on a candy heart, a balloon, a sparkly piece of jewelry, or even on a flower arrangement.
Of course that’s the way to do it if your a couple. If you aren’t a couple, then have some fun with it any way. There’s a boat load of balloons right next to my office itching to be set free. Bet you could find the same kind near you. Then randomly select a fellow single from your contact list and send them one of those giant bears and flannel pajamas. They’re either going to laugh which means you made their day or un-friend you on Facebook which spares you having to give them the icky card next year.
A second chance at love may be my one warm fuzzy feel-good sport. Well – that and puppies and kittens – maybe. As for my plans for celebrating Valentines day, I’m wrapping up the work week and heading home. There’s this guy there now, waiting for me to arrive so we can start our evening, and who shows me love everyday. Even without a generator or a compulsive urge to buy candy on sale. That part I get. That part I am grateful for.