My classmates and I placed our pink and red tissue-covered shoe boxes on our desks and stood in line. We then walked around the room, shoving cards into each other’s boxes. Once I had circulated the room, I spent the next few minutes opening my box. The best Valentine’s Day cards had a lollipop or chocolate attached. I ate those greedily. Most cards, sadly, did not come with candy. Nearly all of them featured beloved characters like Tweety Bird, Jasmine, and the Nijia Turtles, telling me, “You’re really tweet!” or “Have a Tubular V-Day!” Inside, my name was scrawled on one line and my classmate’s name on the other.
Even in elementary school, I understood that these cards didn’t mean anything. What’s the point of being special if everyone else was special too? The only cards that were really interesting were the ones that were different — like the one from my best friend which had a smiley face drawn in the corner. A non-existent card was also meaningful, although the exact meaning was unclear. If a classmate purposely skipped my box, he either had a crush on me, or she really hated me.
In middle and high school, Valentine’s Day filled me with dread. Although I received chocolate from my mother and flowers from my stepfather, l wanted more. The only type of love I considered valid on Valentine’s Day was romantic love. I felt as if I didn’t receive a note from the ONE or at least from a boy, I had failed the Valentine’s test of coolness. I failed this test every year. In protest, I remember wearing green on Valentine’s Day — the color opposite to red on the color wheel. As an adult, I’m grateful I didn’t have a high school romance to distract me from learning and maturing, but my high school self didn’t appreciate the freedom of singleness.
Now, as a wife and a mother, I have found a broader understanding of love and Valentine’s Day. I cannot love everyone equally, as I learned in elementary school. To say that I love everyone would be as meaningless as my fourth grade Valentine’s cards. I would find it easy to say and impossible to live out.
Being a mother has forced me to recognized more types of love than the exclusive passion of a young romance. While I look forward to a romantic, exclusive, meal with my husband, I will also give chocolates and cards to my boys. This day should be special for my little ones as well as for my husband.
I know that my romance with my husband does not, cannot, occur in a vacuum. I have many people to thank for making him the man he is. I know that I would not be able to love him if I had been taught to love by my parents. He could not love and respect me without the leading of his family and friends.
So, I plan to spend this day remember those who have loved me and who have made my love possible. I’ll call my parents and talk to my grandfather. I’ll write a blog post thanking those I forget to call.
Thank you! Love, me