I absolutely loved Valentine’s Day when I was a kid. Everything about it was so much fun. I’d pick out my box of valentines from the dime store, then spend a happy night at the kitchen table, carefully signing my name on each one before sliding it into its envelope and sealing it shut. At school, we spent days decorating old shoe boxes with construction paper, lacy doilies and shiny heart stickers, finally cutting a slit in the top so our classmates could fill it with valentines. And when the big day arrived, we’d have a class party with games, punch and cupcakes. Afterwards, we’d have a box full of valentines to carry home and sort through, looking for the cards that had a small piece of candy taped to them, just to make sure our sugar high didn’t wear off too soon.
I was lucky, because I had a father who made sure the celebration continued even after I got home from school. He would set the table with a red table cloth and our good dishes, then place a large heart-shaped box of chocolates and a big Valentine’s Day card beside each of our plates. Some years we even got individual, heart-shaped red Jell-O molds as well, which I always thought were too pretty too eat…even though I always did. Both at school and at home, Valentine’s Day was pretty darned nice.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy Valentine’s Day now, because I do. It’s just that, as a middle-aged married woman, I enjoy it differently. Red Jell-O molds and fruit punch no longer sound good, and getting a box of chocolates isn’t the thrill it used to be since I can buy my own whenever I want one. These days, I celebrate Valentine’s Day by going for a nice dinner with my husband, and maybe receiving a bouquet of roses if he can find a florist that hasn’t doubled their prices in honor of the holiday. I still exchange cards with close family and friends. Honestly, I don’t need or want anything more, and I know I’m lucky to have this.
But still, there are times when I think it would be fun to go back in time, just for a little while, and be that kid again. The one hurrying home from school on a cold February afternoon, carrying a box full of valentines from her classmates, knowing that a special family dinner was waiting, and wondering how big the heart-shaped box of chocolates would be this year.