Monday, February 14, 2011

Charlie Brown would have gotten a Valentine from me.

Ah, Valentine’s Day, the cut-and-paste holiday. That’s what it always makes me think of: pink and red construction paper, white heart-shaped doilies, white paste in that little pot that had an applicator in the lid. It was fun to put effort into the holiday, to get a little excited about the giving and the getting.

I don’t know what they do in elementary schools now, but when I was little, we all made construction paper pockets to tape to the front of our desks. These became mailboxes that we decorated with our names in crayon and awkwardly cut out hearts. Then when it was time to distribute the valentines, we all got up from our seats and “delivered” all our valentines to the class.

Even when I handed out the store-bought Garfield or Smurfs valentines, I still took the utmost care in deciding who got what card. The night before the big day, I would sit at our kitchen table and consider carefully who got the prettiest cards and who got the duds. I mean, I couldn’t give the “Be My Valentine” card to the cutest boy in class…that would be too forward. Better to give it to my girlfriend. The ugliest card went to the girl who was mean to me. The coolest one went to that cute boy. Everyone always got one – I never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings by omitting them from the fun.

Not everyone cared as much about the cards. Matt N. used to walk around the classroom and slip a valentine into each person’s mailbox, but he obviously didn’t care who got what - because his envelopes had been marked “boy” or “girl” by his mother. All he had to do was give the appropriate one to the correct sex.

In 5th grade I gave friendship pins to everyone with my valentines. These were safety pins that we decorated with pins and charms, gave them to our friends, and wore them pinned to our sneakers. I wonder who started that fad.

Nowadays I don’t give many valentines anymore, which is a shame. Sure, I get one for my husband, and maybe my Grandma or aunt if I think of it in time. But overall the excitement of the holiday has faded. Mainly, I think Valentine’s Day is a holiday for the unmarried folk. That’s when you have the excitement of possibility. That’s when you judge someone’s affection by what they buy you on February 14. I’m glad I no longer have that kind of pressure!

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