Valentine's Day. When you tell your dearest peeps how they make you all melty. How novel. Like getting out the good china for one day out of the year, and sitting it on the shelf for the other 364 days. I was at the grocery store to get pain meds for my daughter, and I saw the slapstick routine of dozens of men scurrying for a single rose and staring with puzzlement at the dwindling selection of red cards.
I tend to think Valentine's Day means the most to people who are removed by place and time (perhaps even future time) from the great loves of their life. I remember the sigh-inducing years of teenagedom when Valentine's Day was some sort of yardstick of inadequacy. Nobody to put a stuffed animal in my locker or get me carnations on carnation day. I remember one year, my friend visited my high school from a neighboring district, and I took her with me to my classes. Her father was my social studies teacher. He snagged us each a red carnation. J let me carry her both flowers around so people would think I had a secret sweetheart. This was probably one desperate step removed from sending myself flowers. In those days, I occupied my mind by asking silly questions: Would I achieve coupledom by the same time the next year and did I already know the man I would marry? The answer to both questions was yes. By the next year, I was dating my future husband, but we were apart because he was in college and I was a senior in high school. More sighs. More lamenting. That year, our first Valentine's day, I got my red carnations by way of my boyfriend's mother (my future MIL) who worked in the school office. (I"ll save the sad irony of me getting pity flowers from high school personell two years in a row for a plotpoint in a future novel.) More loverless Valentine's Days followed. Said long-distance-boyfriend-turned-husband had his college indoor track championships the weekend in February that fell between V-day and my birthday. Cards and candy, but no kisses.
I don't bring up these ghosts of Valentine's Days past in order to elicit sympathy. Since those days, I have spent so many glorious times with my mate that Valentine's Day seems a silly way to acknowledge what we have been through and what we are to each other. Quite meaningless in the face of our daily life. This year's festivities included: the emergency room, sleeplessness, and a puke green cast on our daughter's arm along with the more celebratory flowers, steak dinner, and bottle of wine. Even if you have romance--life doesn't always pause.
No matter. What I am really saying is that Valentine's Day turns into a bigger deal for people who are missing their love connection than for the people who have a daily dose of love in their lives. The new widow. The husband with a wife serving in Iraq. The woman who is going through a messy divorce or break-up. The college freshman who has never had a significant relationship. And those for whom love is not condoned. Maybe it was my novel about two lesbian grandmothers who couldn't acknowledge their true relationship, but I received emails this year from various organizations asking me to sign a petition to send to Congress asking them to pass on legislation that bans gay marriage. I signed. I have what I want for Valentine's Day. Maybe my signature is just a pretend red carnation or maybe it is a placeholder for Valentine's Days to come, but I harbor the dream that more people can have the love they want--the true kind that gives them license to ignore this in-your-face Hallmark holiday.