I've never been a big fan of perfume. Or jewelry. Or cut flowers. Nope, on Valentine's Day no need for those symbols of romance. Unless there's some dirt attached. And roots. And how-to care instructions. After all, should love be allowed to wither & dry up like a bunch of thorny roses in 7-10 days?
Or should love, like a rare & exotic specimen (found at Home Depot's nursery center), be transplanted and nurtured to grow. And flourish. And, given at least the minimum amount of required sunlight exposure, spread. So that eventually it can fulfill its destiny. And become an invasive species....
Yep, it was with some relief that we had kids. And could return to celebrating a pressure-free Valentine's Day the way it's meant to be: Sweet. Creative. Poetic. Filled with love stories. Yet, sometimes heartbreaking. Even puzzling. Or full of cross words. And, quite often, cutting.
With scissors, that is. For snappily
Originally, it started with a fella who was all heart(s), my grandmother's handiwork, saved & passed down to the girls. I wasn't too fond of him, but Mikaela was smitten. So together we came up with new versions, adapted to fit our particular family's peculiarities: We love each other, true. But we -- work at home/school at home/stay at homers -- also bug each other, no denyin' it. Obviously, we're a family of LoveBugs!
Ahh, the enigma that is love. How confusing. With multiple, elusive variables. And seemingly endless unsolvable problems? Sounds like MATH! So M&K became matchmakers, pairing up brokenhearted equations. Some were real, to reinforce subtraction or multiplication practice, yet others were more algebraic & abstract, for instance OX/X = O (hugkiss divided by kiss = hug) or Mom = Super Cool (huh, too easy?). In addition, we played the usual weekly arithmetic games, but with sweet tarts as the tokens of our affections, plus the spoils of victorious conquest. When we really wanted to strike at the heart of the matter, our coordinated strategic attack was to rally the troops by playing Valentine Battleship with heart stickers as targets. The girls put their whole hearts into making puzzles of all kinds, out of stray pieces of cardboard as well as pre-jigged varieties, and incised increasingly intricate labyrinths of love (masterfully minute mazes). And, for our math club's Valentine's Day party, we rearranged tangram hearts & then figured out their irregular-shaped areas. (Now if that doesn't
But equations - even learning them by heart - wasn't enough. One must also be well versed in the language of love. So we started -- as do most of the world's great thinkers, recognized philosophers & gurus d'amour -- with conversation hearts. First, M&K composed unique messages, such as My Sweet Jabberwocky, U R Spooky, Hug a Turkey, Got Heart? Next, they picked 5 random candies to use in a short story. Katrianna's was about two lovers (an orange & a banana) who are trapped in a chilling ivory tower (fridge) & must escape in order to achieve their shared burning desire (hiking the entire Continental Divide trail in one sultry summer).
Traditionally, every February 14th we recite a selection of loveworthy poetry, perhaps Linus' favorite How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning or that more oft quoted (well, only by Chris) My Cheeseburger, originally performed by the gourd-eous Mr. Lunt of VeggieTales fame. Then we write our own. For example, a couple of years ago the result was Mikaela's poem about an oatmeal canister's unrequited love for a shapely bottle of vanilla extract:
In the pantry, on the shelf,
Sat - and sighed - an oatmeal jar;
It loved the vanilla with all its heart
And so it wished upon a star.
Though the door was fastened shut,
The oatmeal wished so much, so loud,
That the mango heard and laughed so much
He attracted quite a crowd.
The vanilla sat on the cupboard shelf
In oblivion to all;
The oatmeal wished and wished in vain
All for his sweetheart tall.
The vanilla was a container large
As was the oatmeal, too,
But the vanilla knew not of the oatmeal jar
Whose heartbreak grew and grew.
The oatmeal languished in the dark
And pined the whole day through;
Yet of her lover, sighing so,
The vanilla never knew.
When the flax moved in, with flaxen curls,
The oatmeal smiled, and shook, and gasped;
Though the vanilla remained on the cupboard shelf,
It was now a thing of the past.
Of course, soon it became clear that our daughters needed to gain some historical perspective on love. And its tormenting capabilities. Ya know, the general, pervasive misery it's inspired throughout the ages? (Oh, sure, and the joy, too.) So they read books about Saint Valentine and the Romans' Lupercalia festivals and the quaint courting customs of America's pioneers. Mikaela even created a crossword puzzle to honor the holiday in her newspaper.
2. It is sometimes used to trim paper hearts
3. A type of candy with messages written on it
5. Venus' son
6. The Greek goddess of love
7. Another word for embrace
8. Roman festival where boys meet girls
9. These can be pink, white or red
11. You pucker your lips to do this
1. A gift that is an expression of love
3. Feb 14 was named for _____ Valentine
4. Heart-shaped boxes of _____
5. Another word for dating
10. This _____ symbolizes endless love
We also had heart to heart talks about Greek mythology. Taking heart (notes) & learning about love's hospitality through Baucis & Philemon, the dangers of idolatry from Pygmalion & Galatea, and the woes of Romeo and Juliet's precursors, Pyramus & Thisbe. Echo & Narcissus urged reflection on vanity's futility and we admired Daphne's ability to remain chaste while being chased, though her ultimate fate seemed unnecessarily treesonous. But primarily we were intrigued by Cupid & Psyche, eager to see what happens when 'Heart' & 'Soul' unite! O my, whatever occurs?! Not much, not after their mother-in-law gets in the way. (Hey, this isn't coming from me. I'm merely repeating what that ol' scholar-woman Edith Hamilton said. About Aphrodite, Cupid's mom. If literature teaches us anything, it's that it would be wrong to apply these universal truths to all situations, right? Grossly eros-neous, imho.)
But most importantly for our little red-haired girls, the majority of their Valentine's Days are spent with Charlie Brown. As in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown & You're in Love, Charlie Brown & It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown. Or, for a radical change of pace, Snoopy's Getting Married. These toons cut straight to their hearts sparkying more elaborate paper
Jam-In Valentine Butter Cookies
3/4 c softened butter
1/2 c white sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
Roll dough into 1" balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten & shape into hearts with raised edges. Fill with ¼ tsp fruit preserves. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown on bottom. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar after cooling. Makes 2 dozen.
Lastly, for parents - or should I simply say "those currently experiencing a post-Romanticism era"? - Valentine's Day offers the perfect excuse to expose your children to love's loftiest heights. In the form of 24 consecutive hours of mushy Motown love song classics by Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Stevie & Smokey. And don't forget those maudlin Temptations, the Supreme sentimentalists or the cheesy Chi-Lites. What about the saccharine Spinners, the gushing Commodores, the 4 tottering Tops, and Earth Wind & Fire's global heartwarming (or has that been dissed proven lately?)... Wait a minute, sorry, there's nothing special here. I already make our kids listen to this stuff monthly. Ok, weekly. Ok, ok, daily. But it doesn't seem to exalt Love irrationally. Instead, M&K perceive Love to be omnipresent, yet somewhat analogous to background noise. Now that's putting love in its proper place... with the mute button just out of reach.
DOWN: 2.lace 3.sweetheart 5.Cupid 6.Aphrodite 7.hug 8.Lupercalia 9.roses 11.kiss 12.doves ACROSS: 1.valentine 3.Saint 4.chocolate 5.courtship 10.loveknot
M's poem, drawings & crossword puzzle are used here with her grudging permission & retain her copyright. Or else.