Wednesday, February 23, 2011

V-Day a week later and other thoughts

It is Valentine Day only 10 days later.  I guess I always figured write what you are thinking as you are thinking it and then re read it and edit out the stupid stuff.  Its been a busy February and that never quite happened and now I look back at V-Day as I recall it with the hazy notion, that I got through another one.

This morning is cold.  My thermometer reads a bone chilling 0 degrees, but once again we are told we have braved and survived another period of below normal temps and out of whack winter weather after 4 days of weather last week that melted every thing in sight most of it over one very warm night.  Another snow storm of the same variety on Sunday night, though the accumulations while approximate to the last storm, had only bare ground to blow across, so the digging out was easier, I think....

But back to V-Day.  I have a love/hate relationship with Valentine Day.  As a child in school it was one of the three big holidays celebrated in school.  Halloween, Christmas and Valentines Day.  School parties that we would wait for with baited breath.  Heart shaped cookies and red hots along with soapy tasting heart shaped candies with romantic sayings on each one.  But the biggest thing was the Valentines we exchnaged.  It was a shopping trip we were always allowed to go on, and I would agonize for days on what direction I wanted to go with my Valentines.   Granted I was somewhat limited as makers of Valentines weren't the saavy marketers they are today.  There were basically 3 or 4 styles in my parents price range, some geared more towards little boys and the rest seducing little girls who put copious amounts of thought and desire into those little red hearts and sentiments.  Once bought, we had to decide what was the best card in the bunch to give to our very best friends and perhaps the one boy we didn't find awful and who even at the tender ages of 7 and 8 we wanted to somehow impress.  After those momentous decisions we would work our way down the ladder and go from lesser girl friends down through the boys to the few boys we could barely stand who got the least sentimental of a box of basically generic thoughts on love.  The last valentines were always saved for the those who we just didn't even really think about and were just part of our class.  To not give everyone a Valentine was never an option, and Valentine boxes were what we spent the week prior to V-Day working on and decorating.  I don't know that there were ever crushed hopes and derailed dreams in those days of elementary children passing out innocent Valentines.  We were all innocent then and only looked to see and analyze if our best friends had given us a Valentine of equal love and sharing, and sometimes if the boy we secretly liked had selected a Valentine that was more than just the neutral sentiment found in the rest of our cards.  Sometimes we read much into that valentine and even more into a childish scrawl.  But mostly after the party and the day were done, we put away the valentines, often shoved under our bed to occasionally be pulled out and looked at and analyzed once again.  We'd dream silly, little girl dreams of that boy we liked, growing up and declaring his love for us and the white wedding dress that would follow, but that was as far as our dreams would go.

As we grew older the valentines became more elaborate, even as the party's became less.  Jr. high school meant being cool and not giving away that secret which was the boy you liked from afar.  The liking was more pronounced but the secrecy kept more carefully.  One year I made all my Valentines after being enthralled with a girl the year before who had taken the time to hand make all of her Valentines.  I labored for a week before hand making the valentines and deciding who would get what valentine.  It was the peak of my Valentine creativity. 

High school saw the end of the Valentines as I had known them in grade school.  It wasn't cool to pass out valentines and even less cool to do so in front of other people, so the valentine became an obsolete anachronism even though we felt as strongly, if not more about our friends and those boys we liked.  We just couldn't show it.  We sometimes passed out silly cards among us girls, but the order of the day became the Sweetheart Dance put on my the school's FFA and for those who have no notion of what that is, it stood for Future Farmers of America, and they selected several girls to compete for Sweetheart of the dance to be accompanied onto the floor by an FFA member of their choice.  Even then we thought it was kind of dorky, but it was one of our more formal dances, in that we got to dress up, the girls were given corsages if they had a date, and it was always around Valentines Day.  Long time couples sometimes passed out single carnations to their girlfriends in school on that day, but that was the extent of signs of affection in school.  One year the journalism class got the bright idea of selling Valentine day messages which you could fill out and have the class print up and deliver to your valentines of choice.  It was not a huge success.

College was my awakening into how other places were much more elaborate in their celebrations of love, at least outwardly.  I remember my freshman year I had just started dating a guy who went to a different school hours away from where I was at Alma College.  I always remember walking uptown and picking out Hallmark Valentine cards for my parents, grandparents and brothers and sister, such was my emersion into the rights of Valentines Day away from home.  I remember the switchboard crowded by flower arrangements all morning long.  Girls delighted squeals as the men in their lives remembered them with arrangements of varying degrees of expense and romaticism.  The day went on and my roommate received her flowers from her long distance boyfriend and I wondered if Tim would think enough of me to send flowers or if a card would suffice for him.  It was afternoon before I got the switchboard announcement that there were flowers for me.  I remember a smile from ear to ear and immense relief that I fit in with the rest of the girl's dorm by getting the arrangement of flowers that said I was special to someone.  It was a lovely arrangement as I recall and was the zenith of my college experience with V-Day.  The years after I would have no longtime boyfriend and while I received a rose or two from good "guy" friends, it was the arrangement of flowers from my freshmen year, I most remember.  And much of that had as much to do with the need to fit in my freshmen year as it did the arrangement of flowers, which apparently was not the case later on.  I do remember feeling melancholy on a few of those following V-Day's as while it was a sign of independence, it was also the one day where you want to be a couple.  As that day would leave I would often breathe a sigh that things and expectations could get back to normal.

For the life of me I cannot remember what Kurt got me our first Valentines as a couple.  I know he got me something and I'm pretty sure it was some kind of roses, but I don't remember them. It wasn't until a couple of years down the road of our married life, that I discovered while Kurt always remembered Valentines Day and always bought me at least a card, it was always preceded by a dash to the local florist the day of, on the way home from work to see what was left that he could purchase.  The same held true of cards, whatever was left on that day.  Flowers and prepackaged romantic sentiments were not my husband's thing.  I learned over the years, and while that might have included some disappointing Valentine days, was that my husband was rock solid and never forgot to bring me at the very least, a card.  He just wasn't a planner of romance.  I am not a rose fan, and certainly not a red rose fan.  If money is going to be spent on flowers which I do love, spend it on an arrangement or a bouquet of  mixed flowers.  That said, Kurt believes in roses because that's what is there around V-Day.  Through the years his cards have meant more to me, as while they may have been the V-Day leftovers, they were a sentiment he picked out and read, and thought of me as he picked them out.  I still have them all.

The gifts of Valentine Day have come and gone and most haven't been remembered, chocolates that were eaten, roses that died too soon, and silly cards that made me smile and wonder how large was the selection left.  As my children reached that magical age of grade school valentines it became the job of me to buy the valentines and then cajole and harangue them into signing them and getting them ready for the school parties.  Gone were the days of carefully picking out what cards they wanted.  Whatever, was fine with them.  As they grew up, I became more moody with the approach of Valentines Day.  I rebelled against the commercialism that had once again overtaken a holiday that started out as a commercial venture, anyway.  As I grow older, age and the long dark winters make my outlook darker and I tend to look to V-Day as a lifeboat, even though it rarely is.  There were some very bad Valentine Days and probably more just mediocre ones of recent.  Valentines day this year was just strange.  My kids have never sent out valentine wishes to their parents, though Ryan did call later in the day, and as for my friends we all just kind of think its silly to send out sentiments to one another.  But for the first time in our marriage, Kurt got me neither a card or flowers or any outward sign that it was Valentine Day.  He felt bad, and I don't think he expected my reaction.  I didn't expect my reaction as I guess subconsciously I was looking forward to my sweetheart of over 34 years remembering. even though you would have to live in a cave not to know the day was approaching.  Honestly, I felt left out.  I know my mother would give anything to have my dad around to "not" remember.  But it was just a day and I was glad when it was done as it marks the last holiday of winter and the lean days of Lent, of somberness will give way to the joy that is Easter and spring.

And so it goes...

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