My earliest recollection of Valentine’s Day was from the third grade. I pasted paper doilies and construction paper hearts on a Buster Brown shoe box, and carefully spelled my name out above the slit my mother had cut in the lid.
I dumped the box’s contents on the butcher block kitchen table that afternoon, sifting through the cards until I found the ONE. The card from Randy, my eight-year-old crush. I was convinced that I could see the adoration in the way he signed his name, and I knew that the two puppies on the front of the card represented the two of us and our love.
In high school, students could buy carnations for Valentine’s Day – white ones for friendship and red for love. I wistfully eyed the red flowers until I had one of my own. It was the first and last time I ever lusted after carnations. Eventually I stopped lusting after the giver of those carnations, too.
During my freshman year of college, those of us without boyfriends made a reservation at the campus “fine dining” restaurant, and went on an Un-Valentine’s Day group date. We dressed completely in black, smugly thinking that conveyed our feelings about the holiday. I bought into the mob mentality of boycotting February 14th simply because I was not in a romantic relationship. It seems silly in retrospect, but to eighteen-year-old me it felt rebellious.
I have spent every Valentine’s Day since then with my boyfriend, who became my fiancé, who became my husband. I’m sure they were filled with romance and gifts for the first few years, although I honestly can’t remember. By mutual agreement, the gifts stopped long ago, eventually to be replaced with little gifts for the two little ones in our lives. It used to bother me that Valentine’s Day came and went without fanfare, but I’m okay with it now. I don’t love my husband any more or less on that one day, and I certainly don’t need flowers or chocolate to know that he loves me. I wouldn’t refuse them, but I don’t need them.
As I look back on the evolution of Valentine’s Day, I find that the day was important to me when I was looking for a relationship. When I was in a relationship, the day became less significant. Grand romantic gestures on February 14th are lovely, but they don’t sustain a marriage. This will be my twenty-fourth Valentine’s Day with my husband, and we will spend the evening driving the kids to field hockey and basketball. Two nights later, we’ll dine with eight other people we love, as we celebrate my parents’ forty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Sounds like a great way to spend Valentine’s Day to me.