Riding the shuttle to school; wandering the halls of FSI; scrolling down endless Facebook updates- three seemingly individual, daily tasks. Yet, all of these actions have been linked by a single connection today: Valentine’s Day. There are few holidays more divisive than the one based on love. Whether you fall into the “love it” category, or the “loathe it” category, everyone seems to take a stand when it comes to cupids wielding miniature bows and arrows, heart-shaped boxes of mystery chocolates and small cardboard boxes of chalky hearts bearing messages of love.
I have vivid memories of the first year I had a valentine on the big day. I remember I was sitting in Mrs. Smith’s first grade class, carefully printing each letter of my spelling words, making sure the letters went from the top, strawberry layer of the ice cream cone all the way through the chocolate layer and ending neatly with vanilla. (Did anyone else learn to write on that paper as a kid? In the left margin of the paper there was a three-scope ice cream cone, the top and bottom lines were solid across the page and the middle one was dotted. Each line was a color that corresponded to the sweet treat in the margin. It was meant to help us make each letter the proper size. Maybe it has since been phased-out due to all of the sugar restrictions in schools today. Literacy and diabetes are not happy bedfellows.) I couldn’t wait to turn in my paper so I would earn a scratch-and-sniff sticker! (I know this may come as a total shock to some, but I was a bit of a goodie-two-shoes school. Not getting a sticker on my writing page or not getting to pick a treat from the treasure chest on Friday were both devastating disasters in my six-year old world.)
As I diligently completed writing out my spelling words, I heard Mrs. Smith call my name. She said I was wanted in the hallway! What?! Only kids who were in trouble got called in to the hallway. I wracked my young brain to figure out what I could have done to get in trouble. Did I finish my entire carton of white milk at lunch? Yes. Did I run on the blacktop during recess? No. Did I say something bad and someone told on me? Not a chance. What could it be?
With a pounding heart and tears threatening in the corners of my eyes, I put down my pencil, slid my tiny chair away from the desk and walked to the classroom door as if I were walking the green mile. When I got into the hallway, the school secretary was standing there with a bouquet of pink carnations. She told me they were a Valentine’s Day gift and that I should read the card. As I pulled the small rectangular envelope from the trident holding it in the vase, I was more relieved I wasn’t in trouble than I was surprised by the delivery. I had just turned six years old. I had no idea why someone would send me flowers- at school no less!
The card was written not in a penmanship that was ever taught on ice-cream paper, but one that I would come to know and recognize instantly on those florists’ cards. I would continue to get bouquets of flowers each year on February 14 all throughout my years of school and college and then when I had my own classroom. The handwriting was, and still is, my dad’s.
Once we started school, my sister, brother and I have received Valentines from my dad each year. Melyssa and I always get flowers (always carnations, as the roses were reserved for my mom) and Matt would usually get balloons and candy. When Matt married Kristina and I gained a sister, Dad gained another daughter, to whom he also now delivers flowers each year. As the family has expanded, Dad’s delivery detail has gotten longer. He now not only covers his own three daughters, but has a daughter-in-law, three granddaughters and two grandsons who also get to take part in this special tradition.
As I hear the naysayers complain about Valentine’s Day and how it is just another Hallmark holiday, it makes me realize how lucky I am to have always had a Valentine on this special day. As the drama of high school and boyfriends came and went, it didn’t’ matter whether had I that someone special to celebrate the holiday with (although I’ve been lucky to have another Valentine for the last sixteen years as well) there was always a vase of flowers waiting for me, making me smile and serving as just another reminder of how great my family is.
Happy Valentine’s Day Dad!