My mother loves to not only shop for greeting cards, which can, according to my brother, take her hours, but she also loves to underline key words in their sentiments. All of her kids and grandkids now hold One-Upsmanship Sessions in which they compare not only the number of words underlined, but the amount of times the words are underlined. Reading her cards aloud with the underlining is hilarious:
Wishing YOU, DEAR daughter, the BEST Valentine's Day EVER
because YOU are LOVED.
NOT JUST TODAY
but EVERY DAY
and ALWAYS!!!! (Adding extra exclamation points is new.)
But I digress.
Valentine's Day. Rick and I aren't exactly dismissive of it; we just don't Do It. We have our anniversary, and that's our Personal Valentine's Day. We figure February 14th can be everyone else's Day For Celebrating Their Love.
When I was little, Valentine's Day was a much bigger deal and a lot more fun. We bought the whole-class box of valentines, there was a class party with treats, and my mother made sure I had red bows in my braids. I would sit at the kitchen table the night before and put way more thought into who got which Valentine than I did into my Social Studies chapter questions. Especially the boys' valentines.
At school I was always astonished at the valentines I received that had a lollipop skewering through them. Although I had never truly wanted for anything as a child, I knew those had been expensive and were not something I could even have asked to hand out. Sometimes, I didn't even eat the lollipop. I saved it and saved it, only to throw it out later after it got broken or forgotten. How silly.
My parents both were enthusiastic celebraters of Valentine's Day when we were children. The very first flowers and heart-shaped box of candy that I ever got for the holiday were from my father. He always made sure that Patti, Susan, and I got a Valentine present. My mother, I'm sure, was in charge of Bobby's, but Dad's fingerprints were all over ours.
One of my father's great joys was to get in the car and simply go. My mother hated it because often, she would send him on an errand for an item she needed for her dinner preparation. Hours later, Dad was nowhere to be found, and in the age before cell phones, he was unreachable. Half an hour before dinner, he'd pull up in the driveway, placid and triumphant, and Mom would be harried and beyond irritated. "Honey! Where have you been? I'm waiting on those potatoes!" she'd say, exasperatedly.
My father would ease out of the car, look surprised and a little sheepish. "Oh! Doll, I forgot all about those potatoes. Let's just have rice. But take a look at the chair I got in the scratch and dent at Penney's. Only a hundred dollars. And I hit it really, really good at the driving range, too. Really loosened up my back."
In his travels my father would frequent small, family-owned florists and garden centers and find little vases or containers in sets of three. Each one would be a little different, either in colour, shape, or something. He'd then have the florist put a flower in each one, add a ribbon, and bring them home. We girls would come in from school on Valentine's Day and find them with our card and sometimes, our candy. If Dad had been downtown, we'd get a little tiny heart box of French chocolates from Faroh's, and we knew that meant he had a secret stash of the same someplace. Oh, those French chocolates from Faroh's. Divine and beautiful.
Mom and Dad exchanged cards, but that was it. The kids were the ones who got actual Valentine's Day presents, now that I take the time to think of it. Again, I am astonished at how oblivious I was growing up. Everyone in my family said I constantly had my nose in a book. It's clear that they were not exaggerating.
I still have one of those little vases that my father gave to me as a Valentine. About four inches tall, it is the only one to have survived not only several moves, but also the capriciousness of my feelings. Safely tucked away in a cupboard, it has weathered fits of temperament, organization, streamlining, and independence. Like Valentine's Day, some things are just for Love.