It must have been 1988…the first time I read the story of a man who loved children and flowers, who conducted surreptitious marriage ceremonies for couples in love, against the orders of the then king who decreed that his soldiers must stay single so as to not have any attachments that stood in the way of their dying for their country. I learnt about this man’s tenure in prison where his little friends would pass him tokens and gifts like flowers and sweets through the bars. And I read of his death and his sainthood thereafter. That is my earliest memory of St.Valentine.
I also remember that the book I read this in, had a crafts section that detailed how to make valentine greetings from cardboard, sponge, paper, cloth and foil. So of course I diligently set about making some. I went through a stack of stuff and produced valentines for my parents, grandparents, cousins and was beginning one for my paternal aunt when mum interrupted to tell me that a valentine was meant to be presented to a boyfriend or girlfriend. I remember being very disappointed.
Well, you were only partly accurate, mum. Valentines are commonly given to boyfriends or girlfriends (as per the decree of the greeting card companies) but this day celebrates love and a valentine is an expression of love….any kind of love, any sort of relationship.
I didn’t hear about valentines for a few years until Hallmark and Archies and the rest of them sat up and decided to make a quick buck. Valentine’s Day…that huge big monster reminiscent of fluffy pink teddy bears clutching red hearts and gaudily wrapped chocolate, satin ribbons and silver/gold/diamond jewellery….the pastime of the kids of the idle rich.
Yes, I spent a fair amount of energy voicing forceful opinions about the crass commercialism of this occasion. And somewhere it turned into a crusade against the occasion itself. I admit I’ve ruthlessly laughed at my more mushy friends, scoffed at their fanciful notions and been rather bratty in this regard. One notable time, I along with a pack of like-minded devils cruised along the secluded lovers’ lanes, creeping upto unsuspecting couples and blaring the horn at them or shouting juvenile comments at them. Ah well….perhaps I was an arrogant teenager.
The first valentine I received…the year I turned 17….I was making omelettes in the morning and enjoying the rare luxury of being home alone when the doorbell rang and he turned up ‘to give me a hug for Valentine’s day’. Did he even suspect then, that he would be my first valentine and my only real one ever?
There was of course the Valentine’s day from hell…a flurry of gift-buying, turning up in town all decked up and doused in his favorite perfume, waiting for an hour till he turned up grumpy (and blaming me of course!) for a failed interview. That wasn’t just Valentine’s day, it was a manifestation of Murphy’s law. We fought, I dropped the solitary rose he brought me, he threw a tantrum so we went to his choice of restaurant to make up for it, I got sick, he got angrier and I got sicker, he dumped me on the side of the highway and sped off. And I came home and wailed and wailed and wailed curses on this blasted day.
It was a good lesson. Sometimes you need to experience the very worst to fully appreciate the best of a situation. I spent one memorable Valentine’s day with two good friends. We had pizzas for dinner and toasted each other and our friendship over coffee and walked down the glitzy road after midnight. What better way to spend this day than with people you are comfortable with, doing things that make you laugh?
Today I went for my yoga class in the morning. My instructor, smiling and cheerful as always said “It is good to see you here. Have a wonderful day!” Met a colleague in the train who remarked on my too-casual attire to office and I breezily told her I had no meetings today. She said “You never know”. I smirked….I believe in ‘feel good to look good’ I walked into to office to a mail saying that my client would be dropping in. YIIIIKESSS! Oh well, I look good, I feel good. Had an argument with Dee (as always), spoke to P, laughed over lunch.
Well, when life is a love affair with yourself, what else can this day be but a celebration?
A very happy Valentine’s day to all of you!