Remember Valentine’s Day back when you were a young, school-aged child? Staying up the night before to make sure you had all of your cards filled out, ready to be delivered to the little hand-made “mail boxes” of your classmates. Remember the feeling of opening all of the cards, hoping maybe the special someone you had a little crush on would write “love” instead of “from” when they signed their name? How it made your stomach jump just a little, even in the 4th grade?
Remember Valentine’s Day when you were in junior high? Like so much of being a tween, you were never quite sure of how you were feeling, and moods and emotions could change on a dime during those years. On the one hand, you were grateful that you no longer had to pass out cards to everyone in your classroom, that kind of Valentine celebration ~ a party of cupcakes and “Be Mine’s” on 3 x 5 cards printed with super heros, princesses, and Winnie-the Pooh ~ well, to a 7th grader that was definitely beneath you. That was for little kids. But on the other hand, maybe secretly, you hoped that someone would slip a little note into your locker that said “I think you’re sweet, be my Valentine.”
Remember Valentine’s Day in high school? I remember in my high school, you could order flowers for your classmates. White meant “friend,” pink meant “I like you,” and of course, red meant “I love you.” I remember hating that day. It was so stressful, because it was all so public. Would you get a flower, would you get several, would you get none. When you’re in tenth grade, getting that flower means everything. At least in elementary school, you go down the list and you hand a Valentine to everyone in the room. By high school, Valentine’s Day, and the number of “flowers” you were given, could be a very defining event. Were you the “lucky in love” girl that got many flowers, all reds and pinks; or were you nice girl that got some white ones from your friends; or were you the girl that went home flowerless, convinced that love and romance and that very special boy would never come your way.
For many, what happens on Valentine’s Day is a test. A test of whether or not we are liked…or loved. A test of how much we are liked…or loved. A test of whether or not our significant other loves us enough to remember the flowers, or the candy, or the card. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and a lot of pressure on our loved ones, in the middle of every February. And why? I think it is because, deep down, we are all looking for the same thing. The reassurance that we are special. The promise that we are loved. And I think that we believe this outward expression of love from another to us will put to rest all of the self-doubt that we are worthy of that special love that we all wish for.
When I started this post, I thought I would write about my own Valentine. How special I feel, how loved I feel, how lucky I feel. And, as I started writing, I realized that instead of writing about how wonderful my Valentine’s Day was, I really started to remember how less-than-wonderful many of my past Valentine’s Days were….because a fourth grade boy didn’t sign my card “love”….because a seventh grade boy didn’t slip a note inside my locker…because a tenth grade boy didn’t send me a pink or a red flower.
I wish I knew then what I know now. That not having a date on Valentine’s Day does not mean I’m not special. That not getting flowers or a card or candy does not constitute a broken promise of love.
I wish I knew then what I know now. That I should treat every day like it’s Valentine’s Day. That I shouldn’t wait for the middle of February to come around to tell my love how I feel about him. That I should be grateful for the smallest gestures ~ the look that says I understand, the steady hand that calms my fears, the warm embrace that brings me comfort, the gentle kiss that promises love.
I wish I knew then what I know now. That diamonds and romantic dinners are wonderful gifts, but the most amazing gifts are to love, and to be loved. To love and be loved by our friends. To love and be loved by our families. To love and to be loved by our children. To love and to be loved by our soul mate, our one true Valentine. In the every day, in the quiet, in the messy, in the funny, in the real. That’s what I wish I knew then. And that is what I know now…what I have now. I love, and I am loved. And that’s what makes every day Valentine’s Day.