As someone who has written romance, you’d think I would be all over Valentine’s Day.
Truth is, I never was a big fan, even when my husband (John) was alive and we were very happily married. I always saw it as a Hallmark-fueled day that put a lot of “he went to Jared’s” pressure on those who were coupled. Even more, I felt it was a mean-spirited roses-in-your-face slam on the single, a day determined to remind them of just how SO single they were. For this reason, I was known to post Facebook pictures of Cupid with an arrow through his back.
So even while married, I didn’t really care for Valentine’s Day. Now that I’m widowed, I think it should be banned in all parts of the world.
Actually, I don’t feel that way at all. I’d much rather see people celebrate their sweethearts than not acknowledge them. And after several years of dropping in at online widow/widower support groups, I’m confident that every member would join me in saying “buy the chocolate.”
Do you remember your first ever real and romantic Valentine? I do. I was eighteen and the sender was a southern gentleman, a Kappa Alpha I’d met at a college fraternity party. He sent me a basket that was spilling over with pink and red blooms, ones that looked beautifully out-of-place in my dorm room with its lime green bedspreads and poster of a soaped up dog in a sudsy tub with the caption “Was today really necessary?”
Surprisingly, those were the second batch of flowers this young man had sent me. We’d had our first date two weeks prior to Valentine’s Day and he followed up the next afternoon with a delivery of a half dozen red roses. Now he really was a throwback to a more eloquent time, an old fashioned guy whose mama taught him to speak fluent floral by saying it with flowers. We didn’t date very long, though, so I’m not sure what he was really trying to say, but I do know this: talk about setting the bar really high for the next guy.
Soooooo….it didn’t take long to realize that men weren’t going to show up ready to turn on the flower shower. It just wasn’t happening and perhaps that’s when my disenchantment with Valentine’s Day truly began. The February 14th of my junior year in college stands out as especially brutal when a sophomore living down the hall received not one, but three – three – Valentine deliveries. Lounging in my dorm room and lamenting our lack of love, several sorority sisters and I watched this girl pass by the open door three times, then make three trips back with her arms hugging a vase of roses each time. She didn’t glance our way or say a word, but the smirk vibe was real. She had roses, we didn’t, and there wasn’t much we could say except “well, dayyyyy-um!”
As the years went by, I came to a couple of conclusions about Valentine’s Day.
Those big heart shaped boxes of candy? There’s only about five chocolates out of the 50 that I’ll actually eat. The rest just serve to record my fingerprint as I do the mash test.
It’s no coincidence that Cupid and stupid rhyme.
Cupid is stupid. He is! Think about it. I mean, is romance really what you fancy when you see an overweight cherub flitting around in Pampers? Come on now. Send in a shirtless cowboy bearing some wine and sharp cheddar cheese and you’ve got my attention.
Despite everything I’ve just written, I've softened up on Valentine’s Day in recent years. Though I’ll always think Cupid is a ridiculous face for something that's been associated with racy-lacy red hot negligees from Fredericks of Hollywood, maybe the sentiment behind the day itself isn’t so bad after all.
My last two Valentine Days with John were spent in hospitals as he tried to hang on through a roller coaster recovery from a four wheeling accident. Every step forward was followed by 10 steps back, each complication returning him to square one. Our final Valentine’s Day was in 2015 when he was on a ventilator, barely out of a coma, and doctors were warning me to be cautious with my optimism. I ignored them, told John I’d put champagne in his I.V. bag if he wanted it, and tucked a stuffed bear cuddling a heart next to him in his ICU bed.
Everyone in the widowed community has a “last Valentine” story. Some are low-key, others include an explosion of hearts and flowers, but all have the same ending: there won’t be another one with that person. We all wish there could be, so even if “I love you” is said every day and acts of appreciation shown throughout the year, I’d say to go ahead and give your beloved the Valentine Validation on February 14th.
Those of us who are single, for whatever reason, just need to accept the day and take joy in the fact that candy will be half price on the 15th. And for those who want romantic love, maybe see the day as evidence that it’s alive and not something to give up hope on.
Finally, we can all be thankful (every single day) for all of our loves, not just the romantic variety.
Well, I do believe I’ve pulled the arrow out of Cupid’s back.
That said, I think a great Valentine’s gift is an invitation to get under the covers…of books. Romance novels make awesome Valentine gifts, and if I had to suggest some off the top of my head, I’d go with mine – Watching the Water and Seeking the Shore, the two that comprise my Heart Tide series. Hey, it’s just an idea. (https://www.amazon.com/author/donnamorton)
In closing, I leave you with several composites of vintage Valentine cards from days gone by. These fascinate me in the weirdest of ways because they belong to a world that is vastly different from the cute little cards my classmates and I exchanged at our Valentine parties. They’re creepy – truly creepy and what’s with the hot dog theme and planning your Valentine’s funeral? Okay, these Valentines are creepy and crazy. Makes me wonder how the day ever caught on and continued. It did, though, and I wish you and yours the most loveliest of days!