Just the words “Valentine’s Day” conjure up for me the taste of dark chocolate cupcakes made from a Betty Crocker cake mix, topped with thick sweet vanilla frosting and a sprinkling of grainy red sugar or a cinnamon heart. More than cards, flowers or candy, my most evocative Valentine’s memories come from grade school parties: the novelty of getting to eat sweets in the classroom, the break from routine.
My kids don’t know the pleasures of chocolate cupcakes and sugary frosting in the classroom on Valentine’s Day; food and drinks are no longer allowed at their school celebrations. They don’t know what they’re missing, but that’s not a bad thing, because they think Valentine’s Day at school is plenty of fun just the way it is. Holly spent hours this year making Valentines from heart-shaped pieces of shiny pink and red card stock: she glued sequins and stuck stickers to each one, then wrote her classmates’ names on them, signing each boy’s card “From Holly” while each girl and teacher got “XO Holly.” When she’d finished writing cards for the 18 students and two teachers in her class, she made a half-dozen more for good friends in other classes and past teachers.
Tim, who hasn’t been interested in Valentine’s card exchanges for years, took a different approach this year: he commissioned an original piece of Valentine’s artwork from a close friend known to be a talented artist and gave just that one card. (Shades of Cyrano de Bergerac, I realize, except that no one will mistake Will's artwork for Tim's.) His artist friend charged him $3, which Tim admitted at bedtime last night he hadn’t yet remembered to pay.
I gave Rick and the kids each a small box of chocolates; Rick brought flowers home from work for me. For once, I didn’t pester Holly to clean up the mess her crafts project left in its wake; we can deal with stickers, sequins and trimmed scraps of paper today. With or without cupcakes (though I admit I love cupcakes), Valentine’s Day is such a fun holiday to celebrate. Yes, it’s a day for love, but also for the good cheer of sweets and bright warm colors and silly poems on cards. It’s a holiday that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and yesterday was a great day to throw ourselves into it once again.