Every year on Valentine’s Day my father would lovingly bring the same exact gift to my mother: a single red rose and a box of her favorite candy, pecan butter crunch. Even when my mom was sick with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and couldn’t be near fresh flowers, his gesture deviated only slightly–he brought her a silk red rose along with her beloved chocolates.
This rose remained on our piano for years after my mother passed away, and served as a reminder of the love and loss of our family–a family where a father’s Valentine’s Day sentiments were also shared with his children. He always brought all of us small gifts. One year in particular he gave me a small gold heart necklace, which I cherished then and still think warmly of now.
I am not sure if my father was always like this. Perhaps he was like my husband, and, stereotypically, most men, who strongly dislike the commercialism and forced nature of Valentine’s Day. I get it. I see the over-priced menus and the silliness of making one individual day the time when people are supposed to show their love for one another.
But I still like the holiday, and this is largely because of my parents. There were no elaborate dinners or enormous bouquets of expensive flowers in our home, just simple gestures of love, respect, and devotion. I had hoped to one day have a family of my own in which the same wonderful qualities were valued, and I now can say I do have this family. It is precisely because of love, respect, and devotion that my husband can get past his distaste for this “Hallmark holiday” and instead not only acknowledge a day he would otherwise prefer to ignore, but actively participate in it. He does it because he loves me, because he is a nice person. And maybe, just maybe, because he wants to be an example for our daughter, like my dad was for me.
We don’t go out for elaborate dinners or buy expensive gifts. In fact I will probably just make him a chocolate pudding pie (his favorite) and decorate cards or cookies with my daughter. I wouldn’t want to let the day pass without showing love to the people most dear to me.
Our daughter is really into “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” right now, which means the adults of the house often find themselves tortured by a perpetual mental loop of, “If you have to go potty stop and go right away,” and, “Grownups come back.” But perhaps these ear-worms are but a small price to pay for the fact that one of the things I appreciate most about the show is how they discuss holidays. Halloween becomes dress-up day; Christmas becomes a winter celebration; and Valentine’s Day becomes “love day,” a day to show people love in your own special way.
It is this version of the holiday–disconnected from Christian origins or modern consumer obsessions–that I think my parents showed me, and what my husband and I are trying to show our daughter.