Yesterday, my nine-year-old walked through the front door after school with a story she couldn’t wait to share with me, spitting it out before I could get in my “welcome home little nugget” greeting.
It seems her teacher is on a mission to have Black History celebrated and acknowledged every single day—and not just declared for one month. She said this with such fire and resolve that I imagined her little fist was raised in the air while she sat on the arm of the chair recalling her teacher’s passion.
With eyes wide and full of excitement she said,“Mama, it’s just like when you say we shouldn’t just celebrate love on Valentine’s Day—that all the days in all the land should be full of love for everyone!”
I’ve been given high fives and berated as a bah humbug when I voice my opinion regarding this Hallmark holiday. “But it’s lovely,” they say, “to have a day to show the one you love how you feel.”
In theory, I do believe it to be a lovely sentiment, but to me all this “holiday” seems to do is line the pockets of companies who really don’t give a rat’s ass about anything but the bottom line—but, more significantly, it’s that this day illuminates (imagine a big, imaginary red heart thought bubble with a line through it) those who are aren’t surrounded by love—in all capacities—not just being without a significant other on one given day in February.
I started to feel this way back in high school. Cheerleaders sold carnations and cupcakes (along with a note) that would be placed on your homeroom desk before you arrived at school for Valentine’s Day—that is, if someone bought one for you.
I received the occasional cupcake or two from friends over the years, but it felt so crappy, after the anticipation of “will there or won’t there be?” to peer into homeroom that morning and see stacks of flowers and cupcakes on some desks…and nothing on others.
Perhaps it didn’t bother most people, but boy, it made me uncomfortable—and pissed off at the same time—not just for me, but for everyone.
My high school years were spent celebrating V-day with a couple of boyfriends, but the only fond memories I really have are of my dad taking us each year to that special store that only sold Godiva chocolate around the holidays and choosing a perfectly wrapped box of chocolates for mom.
At home, my sister and I would wake up to Russell Stover boxes shaped like hearts, along with little wrapped gifts of love, and always the Valentine’s card signed with “mama and daddy” spelled out in numbers representing letters. Could it be from a secret admirer? No one knows until it’s deciphered! (P.S. it was always from them.)
I loved this, don’t get me wrong. But eventually I just wanted the candy, and it started to feel routine (having girls of my own, holidays that involve gifts are very routine), and the message of what, if anything, that was meant to be imparted to me on this “day of love” was lost.
I had moments in my 20s and felt the “woe is me for being solo on Valentine’s day, must go do something to celebrate it so I won’t be alone” blues, but those passed as quickly as they popped up, and I came to view it as just another day.
A day that makes me feel prickly and angry when I see all of the fluffy, pink and red, unnecessary plastic items shaped like cupid lining the shelves right after Christmas. Give us a break, people. May we settle into January for a second, please?
Yet I have been doing exactly what I grew up with. My girls wake up to a table full of hearts, candies, flowers, wrapped little gifts of love, and a big, homemade cut out paper heart—the one thing I do love creating for them.
My children know I love them more than the moon and all the stars, but last year, as I watched them stumbling sleepily to the table full of candy and presents, pushing things around to find something they coveted, glazing over the gifts after they tore the paper off, I decided this year would be different.
Emboldened by the spirt of my child’s teacher, and by the empathetic, kind little creature my youngest is turning into—I am going to use this Valentine’s day as an opportunity to start giving my girls the tools to sort through a world that seems so divisive and full of hate, and help guide them on how they can shine through it by grasping what’s important: love all the things in all the lands every day.
Starting with themselves.
I’ll tell them unnecessary plastic items are just that. And that love means acceptance. Love means giving to others when you can because your cup is overflowing. That I understand when you feel for others so deeply it can seem a burden, but it’s the loveliest gift of all, even if at times it feels too heavy to carry because you don’t yet understand how to hold it.
But you will—I’ll guide you through it.
They will wake up on February 14th and find a big, homemade cut out paper heart that says:
Love is not celebrated just this one day in February. Spread it around every day—to everyone, for all the days, in all the lands.
I love you so, so much.
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