When I was growing up, we made all our Valentine’s Day cards by hand. The dining room table would be covered with pink, red, and white construction paper, lace doilies, crayons, glue, glitter, and markers. My sister and I would construct cards for our parents, our grandparents, and occasionally our cousins.
One year we were travelling on Valentine’s Day and mom got a bunch of tiny premade Valentines and hid them everywhere, under our pillows, in our seats, and on the windows of the van as we returned to continue our trip.
When I was in college, I made some Valentines by hand sewing hearts onto cards. I was able to use little plastic conversation hearts and other sparkles from a garland, and I had fun making them.
When I was in Peace Corps Kenya, I knew that I was going to be with a bunch of other volunteers on Valentine’s day, so I bought a few packages of cards to give out to my friends.
See, when I was in elementary school, I didn’t have a requirement to give Valentines to a collection of twenty to thirty classmates. The only classmate I had was my sister. I was home schooled, and so I didn’t have any other classmates. Perhaps that is why as an adult I have had more fun giving valentines out to others.
None of my valentines are romantic. I didn’t have any boyfriends when I was growing up, and the first valentine that I gave to my husband when we were first dating was a batch of heart-shaped sugar cookies. I don’t connect the hearts, chocolate, flowers and jewelry to this day. (He did take me out on a romantic date that first valentines.)
I know some folks who have anti-valentines days. I know some folks who will flat out ignore it altogether. Something has saved me from that bitterness. I had plenty of reasons to be bitter growing up: no one wanted to give me a valentine, there wasn’t any cute boy that snuck a valentine back to me, and I was far from being romanced on Valentines Day. But my joy with the holiday doesn’t come with what I get. I find my joy in what I can give to others. Especially on this day.
Not to be a martyr about it, but St. Valentine was a martyr for his faith, with little to no connection to romance. This really is a holiday created by the greeting card companies, and they manage to get a goodly part of our wallets. But even if the holiday is a construction, that doesn’t mean that I can’t use it for my own purposes.
Greeting card companies, I see your commercialization, and I raise you a healthy dose of good hearted generosity and friendship.
It’s what I hope to teach my children. We may not make all our cards by hand when they get into school, but we will learn that it is more about what we can give away, than what we can get from being the most popular kid in class. And I hope that we will find time to make a few of them by hand, because I want to pass on the joy of being creative and generous to my children. Maybe they will get some valentines in return, and discover a compassionate heart to befriend.