Dear Saint Valentinus,
Valentine’s Day was a big deal in my first-grade class. Mrs. Buffington reminded the students to bring cards to share with the other students. My mother loved planning celebrations. My father shunned them. After school, while he was at work gardening a yard, she walked my twin sister and me to the five and dime and let each of us choose one cellophane-wrapped pack of 30 cards. That double purchase cost her about six bits with tax (that’s 75 cents in modern coins), but Mama supported our goal of giving cards to every student in our class with a few leftovers for the neighborhood kids. That year, I came home grinning, waving a stack of valentines from classmates.
The following year, we hurried along beside Mother to the dime store to choose packages of Valentine cards, again while Papa was at work. You must have been too busy with romantic grownups to notice a second-grader in Mrs. Rigdon’s class because that wasn’t much of a celebration. Some of my classmates limited their giveaways to favorite friends. I went home with only a handful of cards and a half-smile.
Mrs. Moore, my wise third-grade teacher, skipped the hand-out tradition in favor of individual self-expression art projects. Oh happy day!
After that, Valentine’s Day lost its shine for me. Mama continued to sprinkle heart-shaped cinnamon redhots on white-frosted homemade birthday cakes until we graduated from eighth grade. Then, no more hearts.
I inherited my mother’s fascination with holidays and special occasions, any joyous event. That intensified after my no-celebration father died following a short illness in the first semester of my freshman year of high school. After that, I imagined a kneeling knight in shining armor in a romantic setting near a bubbling fountain, a marriage proposal, the diamond ring glinting in the moonlight.
I just knew you’d do your part, Saint Valentine. But, where was the moonlit night, the fountain, hearts and roses six years later when the man of my dreams proposed to me in my mother’s kitchen on my birthday?
That’s cupid’s job.
Oh, I guess you’re right, but you could have given my sweetheart a nudge toward the living room instead of letting him slip the ring on my finger with the refrigerator as the backdrop.
You’re offended that I didn’t like your staging? Sorry, but that’s my line. I can see we’re getting nowhere. What do you say we call a truce? Here’s a rose to seal the deal.
What? You want red? Take my father’s advice.
Make do or do without.