Bumpy rides on Valentine’s Day

I love Valentine’s Day. But I didn’t always. I had a tragic love affair when I was ten, with Mike Devlin, a boy in my class. He had blue eyes, freckles, and an adorable cowlick. We lived in the same apartment building and hung out together after school. One day, on a patch of grass behind the apartment, he gave me my first kiss. I was in heaven. I knew we’d be together forever. With Valentine’s Day coming up I was sure I’d get a big fancy card from him when the cards all of us brought to class were passed out. But all I got was a little flat one like he gave everyone else.

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Be my valentine, doggone it.

I was cynical about love after that. It took me a long time to grow up about Valentine’s Day. I was self-conscious and shy and introverted, especially in high school, and the big day usually found me dateless, flowerless, and candyless. It was a difficult time. I became more outgoing in college and dated a bit more but also became deeply interested in my journalism studies and didn’t worry about Valentine’s Day so much. When I graduated and began working, sometimes I had a significant other on the big day and got goodies. I always hoped a box of See’s Chocolate would be in the mix.

Sometimes I was on my own and then I bought my own Valentine gifts for my own bad self. I had gotten smart. And I didn’t fool around either.  Nice things like suits for work (even a Chanel once, in my salad days), opal earrings, the best my money could buy. Sometimes I’d even wrap them for myself, when I was really into it. Or I got together with those indispensable, essential companions in my life: girlfriends. We’d have a Valentine potluck and drink wine and give each other nice stuff and laugh about having a better time than we would on a date.

At thirty-five I gave birth to my daughter and the true spirit of Valentine’s Day sprang to life for me. When Michele was five, she wanted a Care Bears backpack for school. Valentine’s Day was coming up so I bought one, and gave it to her as her first Valentine gift. When she opened it she shrieked and jumped around and wore it all day and evening. I gently pulled it off when she was asleep. That’s when I learned the true meaning of Valentine’s Day—the deep joy found in giving joy to someone you love. Michele’s desires back then were so charmingly simple. A new Ginny doll, going to a movie in a theater, a Little Mermaid umbrella. Her joy was spontaneous and unrestrained and beautiful when she opened her gifts.  

I don’t get too caught up in the romantic hype of Valentine’s Day. I have my memories of those days with Michele to keep me warm, and now I have my young niece and nephew. My husband, believe it or not, forgets Valentine’s Day occasionally. I don’t understand how it’s even possible for him to do that in the face of all the incredible nonstop blasting media hype, but I don’t get upset. I know he loves me. Okay, I lied. I get a little upset when he forgets. I like it when he remembers and brings me candy. I may have moved beyond the commercialized sentimentality that is so attached to Valentine’s Day, but I haven’t moved beyond chocolate. And make that See’s, please.

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Another kind of chocolate – better than See’s!


5 thoughts on “Bumpy rides on Valentine’s Day

  1. Very cute! I really enjoyed the part about giving joy to those you love! (BTW, did you really give wrapped gifts to yourself?)

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. I lived with my maternal grandmother for seven out of my first ten years. She always picked out the biggest and fanciest valentines for me and mailed them to me even though I lived with her. What a wonderful surprise for a little girl. Getting something in the mail was special and that it was a big, fancy valentine made me ecstatic.

    I always pick out something that I really like and say it’s from Bill, because if he were alive, he’d give me something really lovely. I do this for every occasion—birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, you name it.


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