Tradition says that the first valentine was sent by a Christen martyr. Perhaps he felt that before being eaten by lions, he had nothing to lose by sending a love note beforehand. There was no fear of commitment. Others might go on how Valentine’s Day is a conspiracy by the greeting card people in conjunction with jewelers and chocolate manufactures.
When Prajna and I pondered over the calendar to set a date for our wedding, the sixth of February worked best for us. We never considered that every year the proximity of our anniversary to Valentine’s Day would diminish the latter. We never really celebrated it. It was a thrill on our first anniversary to eat the last of the wedding cake that had been saved while an infant Harrison looked on, bemused. How could heart-shaped chocolates compare to that?
Despite our avoidance, I may have still bought Prajna a Valentine card some years. But I know that once I had a daughter I began getting cards for her. I had read an article in Reader’s Digest or Guideposts written by a daughter about how her father never failed to buy her a card each Valentine’s Day and sign it: love, Daddy. I thought that was important. This was a way to model love to a daughter who would one day be loved by another man. So every year I’ve given Sarah a valentine. And most years I get one for Prajna too.
So last week I got two valentines and wrote up a simple note on each one. I hate cards with long pre-made messages and usually don’t write a whole lot myself. And then a friend at church offered me some chocolate-covered strawberries. I got two little packets of them, took them home and put them in the back of the meat drawer of the refrigerator. They remained undiscovered. The morning of Valentine’s Day I got up before the two sweethearts of my life and put the cards and strawberries at their place. I breathed a little sigh of relief. I was cool now until Mother’s Day.
Then my 8 year old son got up and looked at the table. He wanted to know where the rest of the cards and strawberries were. Where were the ones for everyone else? In other words, didn’t he have something special from his daddy? I missed the signs that there was a broken heart and told him that I just gave valentines to the girls. I didn’t see the hurt in him. And I never considered that a little boy doesn’t care about genders. If his sister gets a holiday token of love and he has not, that means less love is for him.
By late afternoon, Nathaniel was an emotional wreck. Prajna called me at work at explained how he felt. I was floored. Sometimes I can completely overlook people’s feelings. It hasn’t happened in a while, but it sure happened then. I was very disappointed with myself. The same friend who gave me the strawberries had heart shaped lollypops on her desk and urged me to take what I needed to rectify the situation. On my work break, I created two homemade cards from construction paper and the few markers I found in my office. I thought I should give Jamie one too since Nathaniel was getting one. I wrote simple notes and taped the lollipops in each one.
When I came home for supper Prajna was cooking a special valentine meal. Along with the day’s mail I delivered the last two valentines to Jamie and Nathaniel. Then I went and spoke to my two oldest sons and apologized to them for not giving them anything that day. Harrison blinked in surprise at the thought of his dad giving him a valentine card. But he was able to understand how Nathaniel felt. Jamie loved his card. Nathaniel was tied and feeling sick and stayed in bed. I think he still liked his card.
It was the best Valentine’s Day we had ever celebrated. And yes, the most we ever celebrated too. Whether or not the day is a commercial conspiracy or commemorates a note to a friend before being eaten by lions, the day will be more important to me from now on. In addition to the orange lollipop and valentine I got from Nathaniel, I was reminded how little boys can use a little note of love just as much as little girls. It’s 6:30 as I wrap this blog entry up. He’ll come shuffling out of his room in a little while and depending on his mood he’ll give me a hug or a half-hearted scowl. But whatever I get from him today, I will always be grateful for the lesson he gave me this year.