Valentine’s Day and Universal Love

valentines mouse

Just when you thought the holidays were over, Valentine’s Day arrives. Depending on your attitude you either sneer politely at the explosion of pink and red in the card aisle or begin to anticipate, plot and plan.

This sneaky holiday is, I know, a Hallmark event. I know that if you love someone you don’t need one day dedicated to roses, champagne and chocolates. I certainly never enjoyed dressing up during the slushy epicenter of New England winter to freeze quietly at a small table. But here’s the thing: I LOVE Valentine’s Day. Here’s my favorite book on the subject.

Frankly—and I know I may be making enemies—I’ve always loved the holiday. I like making cards. I love sending them. I like the whole pink-red-gold-confetti “here is my heart on my sleeve” gesture of them. A vintage valentine postcard hangs by a pale blue ribbon in my linen closet. A new one reads I LOVE YOU MAMA in letters that straggle across a crimson shape. The table on the night before is spread with sequins, scrap paper and scissors.

Why is this holiday different from Christmas and New Year’s? Both those holidays long outlived their magic for me? Unlike the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, I always felt my heart. Family may be unwelcoming at Christmas and New Year’s has never made sense to me. New Year’s should happen in September redolent with the smell of pencils, fallen leaves and kids buying books or, at least upgrading their iOS?

Valentine’s Day speaks to universal hope. We all have hearts. We all can love. When my daughter was 5, I hung Disney Princess costumes down the banister of our small staircase. Those pastel dresses in yellow, pink and blue were a scratchy mix of tulle and love. I covered the stairs with confetti and hid the 3-inch plastic mules that matched the dresses underneath each gown’s skirts.

I think I heard her gasp that morning.

The heart keeps beating. We sow new traditions without trying. Years later my daughter’s dad lives down the street. This year she will be with him on Valentine’s Day. But I’m glad she says “Mom loves Valentine’s Day.” Glad I’m not bitter. Glad that what is beautiful still moves me, not romantic love but the joy of connection. Hold someone dear and it doesn’t matter what relationship they have to you. Tutors. Babysitter. Old friends. New friends. You may be between loves, but we do not stop loving.

My brother’s heart is recently mended after a week of holding our familial breath. My dead parents lie together forever. Tradition is as old and newly minted as my grandparents waiting online in Ellis Island, the pile of orange life jackets discarded by Syrian refugees. Hope, like love, springs anew.

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