Valentine’s Day has me thinking of hearts, flowers and candy–especially candy. I was ruined years ago with Belgian chocolate, not Godiva, but Neuhaus and other brands brought fresh from Brussels, with no preservatives, dark chocolate with real cream fillings so you had to eat them in a week or they would spoil. Even the shapes were beautiful, shells, hearts, sculptured curves. Ron would bring them back every time he went to Brussels or flew through the airport. As my admin assistant at that time said, “It’s hard to go back to Hershey’s when you’ve had this.”
Daddy was always fond of chocolate, but we never had anything like those Belgian chocolates when I was growing up. If times were good Mother got a Whitman’s sampler on Mother’s Day. Daddy’s favorites were chocolate-covered cherries. Mother always got him a box for Christmas, as well as chocolate drops filled with coconut. Uncle Floyd always gave us a tin of King Leo peppermint sticks for Christmas. Once Mother went through a fit of baking fancy cakes, and she made a heart-shaped cake for Valentine’s Day. I think she got the idea from Good Housekeeping magazine. Valentine’s Day was not a romantic date for my parents by the time I came along. I think having a fifth child at age 38 (her) and 40 (him) was enough for both of them.
Valentine’s Day was not a big occurance at my house, but it was fraught with anxiety in elementary school. In the second or third grade each student in my class had a paper bag to be their “Valentine mailbox,” and we were expected to slip valentines in to our friends’ boxes. Mother was adamant that I give valentines to the whole class. “Nobody should be left out,” she said. “It’s mean.” So I dutifully gave one to everybody. Most of the class did the same thing, having equally strict mothers. But there was always some child too poor to buy the boxes of cheap valentines, even the punch-out kind. I felt embarrassed and ashamed for the kid. And we each were acutely aware of who in the class got the most valentines–usually some little blond girl.
Our school did not have the elaborate cupcakes, cookies and decorations that became prevalent a generation later. I just remember those funny candies with the sayings on them like “Be Mine.”
After I grew up, Valentine’s Day became more of a ritual. The boyfriend took me out for dinner, brought me flowers, maybe candy, maybe some small piece of jewelry. We drank champagne. We swept any issues under the carpet and had a romantic evening.
Those days are behind me now. But I still like the flowers. Maybe I’ll pick up some the day after Valentine’s Day, when the prices go down!