February is the time of year everyone thinks about the meaning of true love. We asked Valerie the Valentine, who’s quite a card, to compose an essay on the topic of love and how to feel the abundance of joy inside your own heart this year. Read on, and you’ll see why we got the warm fuzzies.
My opinion about Valentine’s Day has changed somewhat over the years. When I was a younger Valentine, I thought that a boy had to find me and take me home in order for Feb. 14 to hold any sort of meaning. Now that I have gained a bit of wisdom by hanging out on the greeting card aisle and observing what people are looking for, I understand that my time to share love will come.
Here’s the truth, if you’re ready for it. I am not a romantic Valentine. There are no roses or kissing couples on my front, no sexual innuendos to raise your eyebrows at. Instead, I’m more about general love – the kind that people feel for their relatives, friends and pets. This might not seem like a big deal – and I’ve learned to accept it, as I mentioned before – but it does mean that I’m … less popular when the slew of anxious, young men and women storm the card section on Feb. 13 to find the right card for the person they’re married to or seeing on a regular basis. Mostly, they’ll pick me up, see how I’m not mushy enough for their purposes and set me back on the shelf, sighing heavily.
Last Valentine’s Day was probably one of the worst. I was downright insulted by this one guy who was searching for the perfect card for his wife AND his mistress! Can you believe it?
“This card stinks,” he said out loud, though no other person was in the aisle, just the rest of us Valentines. “It’s not even really a Valentine – it’s more of a thinking-of-you card!”
Humph, I thought to myself. Talk about a lack of manners!
Now that it’s February again, I’m trying to feel my best and hope someone has the decency to realize that love isn’t always about men and women – sometimes, it’s about human beings.
“I like this card, mama,” a little girl tells the grown woman who accompanies her in the card aisle. It’s a hectic weekday afternoon before Valentine’s weekend. The woman looks over from a display stack of red-foiled candy with interest.
“Oh?” she asks. “What does it say?”
“Well, on the outside it says, “I like you on all the days of the year,” and then on the inside it says, “but today, you get a card about it. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“That’s cute!” exclaims the mother. “And I like that it can be for anyone.”
They put me in their shopping cart with an assortment of other cards – including a very mushy one which I assume is for the girl’s father, from her mother – plus candy and a stuffed teddy bear holding a giant heart. I’m wondering who the girl is going to give me to. I suppose I will find out soon enough.
At dinner with the girl – whose name is Claire – and her family that night, I’m able to listen in on the conversation. They’ve left me inside a brown paper bag on the countertop as they eat and chat about the next day’s festivities.
“I can’t wait to hand out cards and candy to my class,” says Claire.
“Who are you going to give that one card to?” asks her mother. “The one we found in the regular card aisle? Your teacher?”
“Nah.” Claire shakes her head vigorously, blond hair flapping like a helicopter. “That would make me a teacher’s pet.”
The next day, I’m nestled in my red envelope inside Claire’s backpack with the other cards and candy. It’s hard to hear with the zipper closed, but I can catch snatches of conversations.
“I’m not giving a card to Craig,” whispers one girl loudly into Claire’s ear. “Don’t tell Ms. Robinson. I know we’re supposed to give something to everyone. But I think he’s weird.”
“Emma, that’s dumb,” Claire retorts. “Why wouldn’t you give him one? I bet everyone else will.”
Later, during the Valentine’s Day lunch exchange, I watch Claire and the rest of her class hand out valentines. Craig sits in the corner, obviously not as popular as some of the other kids. His bag looks less full of candy and paper hearts than some of the others.
Eventually the party ends and everyone goes outside for recess. Claire picks me up and signs her name across my bottom in purple ink. She takes me over to Craig’s desk, where he is sitting and working on homework.
“Hi Craig,” she says shyly. “I have a valentine for you.” He looks up and she passes me over to him. His eyes light up like Fourth of July sparklers.
He tears open the envelope eagerly and reads my words slowly, a smile spreading over his face.
“Thank you, Claire.”
Claire smiles back and loops her arm through his. “Let’s go outside to the playground,” she says. “It’s another beautiful, 70-degree winter day in Mount Pleasant, and we don’t want to miss it.”
Story by Denise K. James
Original Art by Ryan Collins