Dug this one out of the archives. The 8-y.o. is 16 now, and looms over us at 6’4″.
It’s Valentine’s Day. This has always been my favorite holiday, although I liked it better when it was more understated, with a few cards and those wonderful, chalky conversation hearts. The day is so freighted now, with expectations of diamonds and dinners and roses. Engagements are made and broken, and apparently more couples break up around Valentine’s Day than at any other time of year.
I have a husband who claims he doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day, that it is a “made up, Hallmark holiday.” That’s historically inaccurate, of course; the martyr Valentine wrote to his love from prison and signed it, “from your Valentine” hundreds of years ago, long before Hallmark was around with schmaltzy cards.
We have an 8-year-old son who took Valentines to school yesterday. He was very excited about it, and as he was signing them the night before I was telling him, in geezer-that-I-am fashion, that Valentines just aren’t the same. They are so small, and the paper is so thin and cheesy, and there no envelopes – they are crummy little fold-over things. Most annoying is the fact that it’s impossible to find Valentines for children that don’t advertise merchandise or a movie.
I showed Christopher two old Valentines that I’ve had forever in a folder where I keep mementoes. They must be at least 50 years old. One shows a couple sitting on a couch (smoking and eating chocolate, I’m afraid) with a caption that says, “Next to myself, that’s what I’d like best.” The paper is thick and shiny and the drawing careful and intricate. The other vintage Valentine is heart-shaped, cut with pinking shears. It shows a boy wearing a bow-tie with hearts on it. He’s under an umbrella that pops up and says “Be My Valentine.” The caption reads, “I’d Not Care For Rain Or Snow If I Could Always Be Your Beau.” Indeed. To my son’s credit, although he was awash in Scooby Doo and Finding Nemo advertisements er…. Valentines, he was suitably impressed.
Several years ago my sister-in-law called me on Valentine’s Day, practically spitting and choking into the phone, incensed that her then-husband hadn’t gotten her anything for Valentine’s Day. “What did David get you,” she demanded. “Nothing.” I said. A long silence. “Is that OK?” I explained to her that sure, I’d gladly accept some chocolate or flowers, but that I knew going into the marriage that David isn’t a hearts-and-flowers kind of guy, and if I wanted that, I needed to have married someone else. “That’s bullshit,” she pronounced. Sadly, her marriage ended. I feel lucky to still be married, even sans Valentines.
Although Valentine-impaired, my husband is a marvelous cook. He said he’d like to cook a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day, and that will be great. All week he has said to me, “Now that’s going to be our Valentine, right?” Read: Don’t expect a card from me.
Yesterday our son was talking about going with Dad to get a Valentine for me, and I told him that Dad was going to cook dinner, and that was his Valentine. There was a moment of silence again, not unlike the one during that call with my sister-in-law. “That’s like letting Stephen go to the treasure box when he does his homework,” he said. Stephen is a classmate who evidently never does his homework, from what my son tells me. One day he happened to bring his homework in, completed, and the teacher let him go to the “treasure box” as a reward. Normally this privilege is reserved for excellent behavior or some other achievement out of the ordinary.
My son was very irate about the injustice of a treasure box visit for a one-time homework shot, when all the other schlmazels in the class turn in their homework regularly for no reward. “It’s true,” I agreed. “But maybe the teacher is really trying to encourage him.” He wasn’t convinced. Then yesterday, he brought up the homework caper again, comparing it to my husband’s Valentine cook-up. “Daddy never cooks dinner,” he said. “Having that count as a Valentine is the same as going to the treasure box for doing your homework.”
“Never mind,” I told him. “But when you grow up, you be sure to buy your wife a Valentine.” “I’ll try to find one like the old ones you have,” he said. I picture a happy wife in the year 2025 or so, who won’t have a care in the world, especially not for rain or snow, because my son is her beau.