You might be able to discern from my recent posts that I have made my peace with Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day and I have long had a love/hate relationship. Thankfully, it doesn’t date back to 1965, but it does date back to some February 14th in the past when I realized that I had to share my birthday with the entire English speaking world. At some point, I realized there was an entire world of stereotype out there, a romanticized idea of what should happen on the day devoted to the Saint. And I wanted it. I wanted it all.
I spent many birthdays in my teens, twenties, and thirties watching from the sidelines as everyone around me received flowers, chocolates, expensive jewelry, and engagement rings on my birthday. Spending my professional life in the perpetual John Hughes movie of high school did not help. Not a year passed that I was not forced to confront the age-old “flower ordering” show of popularity or a teenage girl who scored expensive jewelry from her boyfriend of 35 days. It’s not that I didn’t have my moments. There are some romantic birthdays in my past; it’s just that I am a creature that easily devolves into a spinning vortex of want. I don’t like that aspect of myself, but it’s true. Jamie has always said I always want something I don’t have, and I’m embarrassed that that has often been true, especially on Valentine’s Day.
I did the natural thing, under the circumstances (I think). I developed a hearty disdain for the holiday. In sort of a sour grapes phenomena, classic avoidance, if you will, I eschewed the hearts, the chocolates, and the diamonds. I mocked. I snarled. Sometimes, I even hid, but how can you, really? There’s no escaping the commercialized Hallmark, Russel-Stover, 1-800-Flowers-ness of the day (except that about twice every seven years it happens on a weekend, and I can hide in my house!). The problem is, I didn’t really want to escape it. I wanted to be immersed in it, but I couldn’t get away from wanting what everyone else had.
Then, I had a child. It sounds simplistic, but it’s true. Valentine’s Day perks up the gray, miserable, cold time between Christmas and Easter. It’s a great excuse to bake something nice. And kids love it. They love the whole idea of making Valentines and baking heart-shaped cookies, and wearing t-shirts festooned with X’s and O’s. Duncan had such a good time last Valentine’s Day, that I started preparing for it weeks earlier this year. We crafted Valentines cards; we baked cookies that mirrored the X’s and O’s on Duncan’s favorite shirt. I tried out the red velvet sandwich cookies. This year, Duncan’s preschool class exchanged cards; rather than roll my eyes and poke out my tongue, I enjoyed taking him to the store to pick out Peanuts cards. Next year, I’ll work harder at making them. I’m actually a little sad to see it go.
As I mentioned before, there has been a huge outpouring of love in our house over the last few weeks. I can’t help but think that opening myself up to the joys of the season has helped to encourage it. I don’t really care anymore what you did or didn’t get for Valentine’s Day. I have my family, and I love them, and they love me, and if I needed a perfect excuse to celebrate that, I’d have one. As for being another year older, I’m not too concerned about that any more either. I like to think I am older and wiser, but there is something about receiving a construction paper heart decorated with scraps of lace that makes me feel younger too. Happy Valentine’s Day!