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My most prominent and fondest Valentine’s Day memories as a child involve writing cards for family, friends, teachers, therapists, and every single one of my elementary school classmates. This annual tradition was one I approached with a mixture of anticipation for the delight I was sure would be expressed by all who received them and slight dread for the excruciating amount of time and labor it would cost me to write out all those cards. Of course, looking back now, it doesn’t seem that hard at all; I only had about twenty classmates any given year, and roughly six teachers and therapists, but considering my fine motor problems which made handwriting very difficult for me as a child, it could be a daunting task for me to accomplish.
I remember choosing cards that were always heart-shaped, in keeping with the holiday’s perennial symbol. I find this shape very cute, aesthetically pleasing, wonderfully symmetrical, and (please pardon the expression, but I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this all day) heartwarming, but it could be a bit challenging to work with in terms of writing a decent note. I liked how there was plenty of room toward the top, and the rounded portions of the heart made for great borders to contain the message. On rare occasions, I also liked writing along the curvature of the round bits for some added novelty. My enthusiasm diminished, however, as I made my way down the card, losing room to comfortably write until I could barely include anything more than a simple “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and a final goodbye. Again, my under-developed fine motor skills meant I couldn’t always depend on being able to control my pencil or pen to my liking, resulting in a very messy card and me having to rewrite a fresh one. The combination of these problems could sometimes be a real nightmare for me.
My mother would help me deliver the cards to everyone on my Valentine’s list, usually in the middle of slippery winter weather, and I would hand-deliver my cards to their front door, classroom, or office. When they saw me and read their Valentine card, I could see a warmness creeping over their faces. This often resulted in my receiving back the same genuine good feelings I had given them, either in the form of a kind “thank you” or, in certain cases, an enveloping hug. I always considered such instant gratification the best part of the whole enterprise. I’d say it was well worth the effort to write each and every card!
Another tradition I can remember as a school boy involved my classmates and I comparing candy hearts we had received from our teacher. They were small, sugary, little hearts that melted in our mouths like snowflakes. They were also printed with sweet, saccharine messages that I am fairly certain flew over most of our heads at the time, or at least right past mine. They were nice enough, I suppose, but obviously not meant for children who were unable to understand or appreciate the meanings of these “sweet nothings.” What does a seven-year-old kid do with something like, “Be mine,” “2-gether 4-ever,” or more exotically, “Sweets for the sweet?”
These days, I don’t mail out any Valentine’s Day cards, but I still enjoy the holiday. My mother still decorates the house for Valentine’s Day - I swear we likely have more heart decals than anyone else on the block; enough to stick on every window if not cover them completely! In addition, I always enjoy the local stores when they are decked out in Valentine’s Day décor – aisles suddenly become filled with pink and red hearts, cards, bags, candy, lollypops, and all manner of other nice things. There are also displays full of boxes of ready-made Valentine’s Day cards with popular movie, television, and comic book themes and characters on them. I find it interesting to see which new super hero, cartoon character, show, or theme are included every year. Snoopy and SpongeBob are perennial favorites, but this year also seems to belong to Paw Patrol, Guardians of the Galaxy (especially Rocket Raccoon and his talking tree friend, Groot; on a day for couples, what a pair to feature!), and, oddly enough, Transformers. (I can scarcely imagine the thought process the manufacturers of these cards must go through sometimes. “I’m telling you, people, nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like a robot/truck hybrid from Planet Cybertron! We just can’t miss!”) Who knows who or what will be featured next year, but I cannot wait to see what they will be! I also enjoy the yearly Valentine’s Day specials that are televised each year. The two Charlie Brown specials are favorites at our house.
My feelings toward Valentine’s Day have changed considerably from when I was a boy. I have grown from a child’s view of extending good, happy thoughts to others on a day that was filled with fun cards, gifts, and candy to the realization that, as an adult, we extend all of these wonderful things to each of our loved ones whether family or friends in the form of much deeper expressions of love and affection which is an acknowledgment of the powerful relationships all of us have. I have to admit that this newfound knowledge was a surprising and very empowering notion to me, and this attitude of love and affection is one that I have adopted in everything I do, say, and write. After all, if you can’t believe in the power of love to bring everyone together, what can you believe?
I am glad to still have fun with Valentine’s Day. I may not hand deliver cards anymore, but I still see people I love. It doesn’t mean I love them on just that one day, but everyday throughout the entire year. They are what matters most to me, and it is nice to take a day to reflect on what they mean to me and what I mean to them.
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Click to see: Children's books by Benjamin Kellogg.