Hearts and cupids. Flowers and candy. School parties with elaborately constructed boxes. Valentine’s Day is a romantic holiday for some, a reason to give gifts for many, and a painful day to simply make it through for others.
Depending on your source, there is actually more than one Saint Valentine. And the holiday which came to be associated with the name has its roots – as so many holidays do – in pagan festivities. The association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is often attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century but nowadays, in the United States especially, Valentine’s Day is a tour de force of consumerism, with Americans spending a projected (and outrageous) $26 billion dollars on gifts this year.
And…I confess, I am guilty! I love a little occasion for a gift and a decorated table. We don’t go overboard here at my house, but we do get the token candy, sometimes have a nice dinner. No solid traditions; just small things to observe the day and those we love. But really, Valentine’s Day must be rather unmemorable for me, I had to go and search my journals and my social media for memories on this day. I found pictures of school boxes past with treats I prepared for class parties, images of dinner that were fancier than the norm and called for a set table. I saw a collection of untraditional memories as well, the year we were traveling home from a long weekend, the year one of the girls was sick so we piled up and watched movies all evening. And the year I spent part of Valentine’s Day in the VA hospital a mere 8 days before my father died, having gone to the hospital gift shop for him a few days before to buy my mom a card to her from him.
However you choose to celebrate – or ignore – Valentine’s Day, I wish you love. Not just romantic love. Love for family, if you are as fortunate as I am to have a close family surrounding you. Love for friends, some of who may be going through a hard time. Love for community as is being demonstrated here in Conway in the ongoing search for a local missing girl. Love for strangers as we awake again to the news of yet another mass shooting. Love for yourself, when you think you aren’t enough. Love in the midst of it all.
I wrote the above words yesterday when I had a nice Valentine’s Day dinner planned. And, as usual, the best laid plans went awry. With both Trever and I working from home, him having doctor’s appointments, us going and spontaneously buying a used car, the day became more and more hectic. By the time we began cooking dinner and were ready to eat last night, I was worn out, my mind was consumed with all of the things we had to do next, and I found myself not actually enjoying something which I had gone to quite a bit of time and effort to plan and prepare. After dinner, the kitchen was a holy mess because the dishwasher was full, we spent the rest of the evening to try and arrange another deal with the wrecked car we were selling, and I wasn’t in the most loving frame of mind. The decorations were cute. The food was good. The cake was dry as hell. I was surrounded by loved ones and that should have been enough. But the mess and my preoccupied mind distracted me.
This morning I got up ready to tackle the day. I cleaned the kitchen and began my checklist for the new (used) car as well as started my work day while Trever dealt with the sale of the old car. I felt in control again. Last night and often, as much as I try to be present and stay in the moment, I inevitably succumb to my inner control freak who can’t function when things are not perfectly in order. So I will try again, to be aware of the love that surrounds me, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.
Karri Temple Brackett
February 15, 2023