ahhhh, another reminder of Valentine's Day. Romance, the scent of roses in the air mingled with chocolate and sliders? That's right, you can, if you have a reservation, enjoy a candle-lit dinner with table service at White Castle. 49-cent sliders served on a silver (OK, maybe it's plastic) platter. I haven't been to the WC in decades though I do have some fairly extravagant memories of Valentine's Days past.
Like the year I decorated my (then) boyfriend's car, bumper to bumper with shaving cream, streamers and balloons, then made sure his coworkers were watching after the receptionist rang up to tell him he'd left his lights on. Rather than being embarrassed, he drove through town honking back at other drivers, even making a drive-through run at the bank. Fast forward twenty-two years and, since I asked him to make cards for the kids, I'll probably get one too. Jim is an illustrator after all, with his own line of greeting cards at Oatmeal Studios. That's not to say he isn't sentimental, but it is, admittedly, a commercial holiday.
I walked into the grocery the other day and it could have been a television set for a cupid-themed sitcom. Enormous bouquets of pink and red balloons billowed in clusters across the entryway, reminders plastered on every aisle from heart-healthy vegetables to deli, stacks of heart-shaped cookies boxed in the bakery and then, of course the aisle they reserve for the candy of the season.
One need only glance at the papers or television ads to be bombarded with multitude of celebration possibilities - packages for lovers, special prices on dinners, diamonds, roses, chocolates, a night away from the kids. I'd been feeling a bit ambivalent and decided to query some friends for their thoughts on the event, a diverse group including newlyweds and long-time weds, writers, attorneys, bankers, pastors, creatives and moms and singles.
One of my guy pals who lives in a nearby, albeit tiny town, recalled the year the mayor (who also owned a floral shop) changed the date of Valentine's Day to the 23rd because of the snowstorm that made the streets impassable on the 14th. One of my friends was served waffles in bed this morning by her daughter. My daughter's ballet academy is offering a fun night for kids to raise money for costumes. One of my favorite observances has been One World One Heart, a internet event linking hundreds of bloggers with fellow artists through blog visits and comments that are generating art giveaways to randomly chosen entrants.
Aside from a friend who would only say, not applicable, most of us observe the day, whether guilt induced or a genuine occasion to celebrate their love for family and friends. If we can all manage to be in the same room at the same time today, we'll have a typically spontaneous blitz. Not that we aren't romantic... honestly, I know that my husband loves me. I know enough about being around myself to realize that he would be seriously demented otherwise. Like most, we don't rely on a cold day in February to profess our undying love. We demonstrate it in varying degrees of subtlety on a daily basis: a kiss on the way out the door, a sigh and slump-like embrace after a particularly difficult evening with two middle-schoolers, the battles and trauma of homework and dishes and chores and making sure the dog has been let out one last time.
There was the year, not long after we were married, when I woke up to find our tiny house papered floor to ceiling in paper hearts that he'd spent weeks cutting out. And it wasn't even Valentine's Day. The past several years I've mostly thought about the kids. I made cards yesterday and thought about them as I glued and dusted glitter and embossed. Neither has romantic entanglements. Yet. No drama, hurt feelings, broken hearts... yet. I thought, with a swift pang, how much more painful it will be to witness their coming years than it was to live through my own, as they begin to endure and suffer the wonder and loss, the fleeting, brilliant light of a new crush followed by the dull thud of the broken heart, or the guilt of realizing that the person who, moments ago seemed so hot, so perfect, really is right for someone, anyone else.
Who can think about love without also thinking about heartache. It's a wonder mine survived, though it's had twenty-two fortunate years to recover. My own kids break my heart regularly, as they grow increasingly independent, impossible without a little rebellion and eye rolling, of course. Hard to think that it's what we've been working toward since we gathered at the kitchen table,their cheeks smeared with frosting, red and pink sprinkles.
Most of my friends associate Valentine's Day with childhood, their own or the surprises they plan for their own kids. Many of the comments were poignant, flip and downright funny, if not a little surprising. My gal pals recalled times with their mothers, making treats, signing little cards for classmates and making 'mail boxes.' One spent several years mystified by the one anonymous secret valentine that turned out to be her mother, though she never figured out how she managed to sneak the treat into her bag at school. I remember it maybe being the one card I got all year long actually signed by my father. Others remember the chocolates, some long married still question whether they are adequate in the love department. There are wedding anniversaries celebrated today, romantic and family dinners planned and even the most pragmatic (a comment about ill-fitting lingerie) confess to a touch of sentimentality, acknowledging the day with a card or kiss, maybe even dinner out.
Some surprised me with the level of importance still assigned to the holiday after years of finding and losing love, infused with pain and the fresh glow of infatuation, the separate paths taken by friends, illness, the aging and passing of parents, kids who are getting old enough to expand their love beyond doting parents. So, I came to the conclusion that, yes, it's like every other day, but why not take any available opportunity to celebrate the love that radiates resplendently from our patched-up, many-times over mended hearts.