I was the kid who knew how to draw hearts. So when we had to make our own, I was suddenly a noticed person, and I would take the crayon, or the pencil, and lightly outline a heart for my small peers who brought me their pink and red construction paper. Or scissors, folding the paper in half to make a symmetrical heart.
When my mom took me to Kresge's Five and Dime to get a box of Valentines, I went for the comic ones, Peanuts, B.C., and Flintstones, the funnier the better.
I made decorations for Dances, so I could get and not have to pay. At one dance a nun insisted I pay anyway, and after several 'reminders' I simply lied to her, claimed that I had paid. I rarely got asked to dance, and only danced when a circle of friends hogged some of the space to ignore the couples on the fast songs. My senior year, a freshman named John Smith (really, not kidding) seemed to have a crush on me, and I had a regular dance partner for the first time. I hope I made his ninth grade social life a little easier, he certainly made my senior year better. The Valentine Day dances were only distinguishable by the decorations.
In high school, I sold carnations on Valentine's Day to raise money for... the dance? Huh, what was I raising money for? I certainly never got one, but I was glad to handle cash.
In that last year of Catholic school, I had to have one more religion class to graduate. I very reluctanly took the lamely named Growth as a Person. What I remember about it was playing games. Like the teacher reading out statements, while the whole class stood in the center of the room, desks pushed to the boards, and we each had to physically chose a side, fast.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Shuffling, and standing, perhaps with friends, perhaps not.
Is there a God or not?
Shuffles, and Gretchen stood alone.
Republican or Democrat?
Shuffling and more or less evenly split.
Salt or Pepper?
No chosing neither, no undecideds. The exercise repeated every other class, and the choices cycled around, and a new choice could be made next time. But at that moment, each of us had to decide, and stand there, and choose. Out of admiration and baffled respect, I one day stood with Gretchen, and it was frightening to stand there, just the two of us, doubting God. The seed of my own late blooming courage.
I cannot shoot four rounds a minute, but I can stand.
The other consistent exercise in that class was having to write to every other student a note, a positive, anonymous, note. I could tell who was trying. The rest of the notes I received were "Nice" or "Nice smile," which spurred me on to more creative vocabulary, and at least some attempt at personalizing each one. Not always successful. It was concrete proof that my fellows didn't hate me, they barely saw me, as I barely saw them. It was much like Valentines. Nothing magic about it.
A group of friends, D and I, all men save myself, went to a favorite Vietnamese restaurant that handled large, odd-numbered groups with aplomb, and encountered an unexpected crowd. We waited a short while, were seated, and I was given a flower. Huh. We were all wondering WTF? And why was I the only one given a flower? We looked around, a lot of couples, but it was a Wednesday! The date floated into several consciousnesses at the same moment, February 14th. Oh. Duh. We all had a good meal, and a good story, and scoffed at the couples who had to have a sanctioned day to express romance.
A few years ago, D asked me if I wanted something for Valentine's Day. I said, no, thanks for checking in, but no. The next day, as a joke, I said.
"Well, you could get me chocolate today, since it is not a holiday and you are not commercially obliged."
And he did. Half-Price Chocolate Day was born. Half Price chocolate is better, because you get twice as much of it. February 14? Valentine's Day? Feh. Half-Price Chocolate Day Eve!
You are thinking, where is the usual tightly woven prose? What is she leading to, where is the lesson, the insight? What is the point of this essay?
This is what Valentine's Day means to me. It is pointless. It's funny. Lessons come in unlikely places, best to just stand and take it. And when you figure out it is all about chocolate, life gets much better, the day after.
Labels: Art, childhood, food, friends, love story