At age thirty-three, my love-struck bachelor father married my mother. She brought with her into the marriage five ragamuffin children from a former marriage. They bought a 100-year-old house on two acres on a dirt road in the country and commenced making a life together. My older siblings quickly adapted to their new life, embracing local activities like basketball, cheerleading and 4-H.
As part of 4-H, my oldest sister, Jeanne, did a lot of cookie baking. She particularly enjoyed making cut-out cookies and frosting them pink and adding sprinkles. Our mom had a cookie cutter set of a spade, club, diamond and heart left over from her pinochle club. When my sister lamented that she didn’t have a bigger heart cutter, her new father quickly volunteered to make her one.
Coffee cans in 1954 were made from metal devoid of printing, they still came wrapped in a printed label. He dissected the can and formed a homemade heart out of a strip of the can. I still have that cookie cutter today and it has shaped countless Valentine cookies that have been decorated and devoured. Now over 60 years later, my grandchildren will be feasting on cookies shaped by a cookie cutter made by their great-grandfather before their grandma was born. I like it.
My first conscious memory of Valentine’s Day is in first grade when we brought in a cereal box which we then covered with construction paper and decorated with hearts, followed by a parade around the room delivering our classmates’ valentines into those boxes.
I do like Valentine’s Day, even after working in a flower shop for over a decade. It’s a crazy busy few days. The customers run the gamut from the one who comes in a week ahead of time, sometimes bringing a special card or gift they want delivered with the flowers and making sure everything is perfect, to the person who stops on their way home from work on Valentine’s Day and grabs a premade arrangement out of the flower cooler. One year I was helping a man whose wife I knew. He grabbed a fresh arrangement in a coffee mug. Knowing his wife, I felt the need to point out to him that the mug said, “World’s Sexiest Wife.” He put the mug back and chose something else! I still think I did the right thing.
A remarkably memorable Valentine’s Day for me was in 2007. Mr. Smith and I were on a trip to New York City and were scheduled to fly out on Valentine’s Day. But the city was crippled by a winter storm and our flight was cancelled. We were “forced” to spend another night in the city. No one could get into the city and people were cancelling their dinner reservations left and right, so we scored a table at one of our favorite little restaurants and had a wonderfully low-key romantic dinner.
Mr. Smith and I will celebrate the day of love this year with a scrumptious dinner at home. We will set a festive table and toast to still being each other’s Valentine. I’m mailing out Valentine boxes to my grandchildren with homemade cookies and a Valentine. Tucked in that Valentine is a $5 bill. Not big money by today’s standards, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be pleased.
While I do like Valentine’s Day, I understand why some might not. Expectations can run high and if you don’t have a significant other you can feel out of it. Merriam Webster defines Valentine’s Day as: February 14, observed in honor of St. Valentine and as a time for sending Valentines. Perhaps we can dial it back a bit. Send a Valentine or two (if you want!) and munch on a cookie. Or three.
C’est la vie.