She’s right. I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day, beginning with those early primary school days of decorating shoeboxes with pink and red paper, doilies, cut-out hearts and cupids. We’d make a slot on the top and place it on our desk and each child would go around the room, subtly dropping home-made and purchased Valentine’s in our classmate’s boxes. Every year, at least one classmate stuck a few of the big candy conversation hearts in each card. I lived for those.
Silly, I suppose, but those memories are the ones that fuel my love for the holiday. But that’s not the story I told my coworker. The truth is that my best Valentine memories begin in my college days.
Every year my dad sent flowers to me at the dorm — even though his office was just across campus. And my mom? I’d return to my dorm room to find a package of homemade cookies or chocolate candy. I don’t think they ever realized how much those gifts meant to me.
Later when our girls were old enough to appreciate the holiday, they each decorated a shoebox with whatever scraps of fabric and paper, stickers, etc., that we could find in the craft box. That box sat outside their bedroom door for two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Every morning, they’d squeal with delight at whatever someone had dropped into the box overnight. I’m pretty sure they thought every family did that, but I think they’ve since learned that wasn’t the case.
One year I baked a giant chocolate chip cookie in the shape of a heart for my husband and each of the girls. Another year, we had a heart-healthy dinner than ended with a frozen ice cream pie for which I’d made a meringue crust from egg whites and sugar.
This year my husband, who can be very romantic when he wants to be, surprised me by writing “the Valentine’s Day column that will never be published.” I’m probably going to get in trouble for even revealing this much, but suffice to say that it was a rundown of all the girls he’d dated before he ended up marrying the girl next door. Well, technically, it was the girl who lived down the street, but you get the picture.
I alternately laughed and cried as I read it. It was the ultimate in thoughtful gifts — more meaningful that a dozen roses.
Note: The two antique Valentine cards included above are part of a collection of several hundred that my husband’s grandmother saved between 1890 and the 1930s. Clearly, our love for this often sadly-maligned holiday is genetic.