Considering that the holiday is all about love, there are a lot of people who hate Valentine’s Day — namely, single people who wish they weren’t so and don’t appreciate being aggressively reminded of it for the next two weeks.
In my long ago college days, my dorm room overlooked a courtyard that was regularly filled with courting, and necking, and snuggling, and irritatingly happy couples, and while I sat at my desk, composing vitally important analyses of obscure 14th century poems, I understandably looked away from the task to think about something, anything, else, only to watch an endlessly changing Chick Flick unfold just outside my window.
I swear that I was the only person on that university campus to not be involved in a romantic relationship.
My mother, being a mother, understood my feelings, and two days before Valentine’s Day, a care package filled with chocolate arrived. While an extra dose of calories to the existing Freshman 15 wasn’t necessarily the answer to my angst, it salved my soul, as well as substantiated in my own life the tradition that my mother had started years before:
“Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples,” she told us, her brood. “It’s for everyone who loves one another.”
And so, in 3rd grade and high school, although I found myself unfettered by the romantic attractions of a 9-year-old or recently licensed stud, I was never bereft on Valentine’s Day, receiving, from my mother, a card, a small gift, some chocolate. While I would infinitely have preferred such gifts to be from a boy as opposed to, well, my mother, even my immature little mind could see beyond the obvious to the true:
Someone who loved me very much was doing what she could to get me through a painful time.
I honestly don’t think my mother intended to start lasting traditions, but most of her ideas were so good that they can’t stop at one generation. While I did eventually go on to discover my Norwegian Artist on a white horse (actually, it was a yellow Datsun), it is ironic that we have never done the official Valentine Day thing — roses, chocolates, lobster and steak at a restaurant — because our first years were so mired in financial struggle that such an expenditure would have wiped out the grocery budget for a week.
But because I cook, and cook well, we celebrated, and since candles are cheap we could pretend we were in a fine restaurant, and when the kids came along we just set another plate at the table and made sure that there was enough dessert to go around. As the kids grew older they contributed to the dinner, and the day became less wrapped around Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara’s passionate kiss as it did just a bunch of people who really like one another, and really love one another, and get through this highly commercialized and over-hyped day by sharing it together.
Years ago, an older couple celebrating their anniversary invited the Norwegian and me to an exquisite restaurant in observation of their special day.
“But it’s your day,” we protested. “You should celebrate it alone.”
“Our friends and family are as much a part of our lives together as we are,” they replied. “It gives us joy to be with the people we care about.”
Oddly, they’re not related to my mother, but they could have been — generous minds thinking alike.
May your Valentine’s Day be a truly happy one, surrounded by the people you love, reminded not of your relationship status but of the extraordinary friends and family who are there for you every day.