As Valentine's waltzes it's way closer and closer, I hadn't given much thought about it until today in the aisles at Target, where every department seemed to have it's own red, white, and pink display of love and all things chocolate.
When I was still with Agent M's dad, we didn't celebrate Valentine's Day. I never received a Valentine's gift or card from him, and don't remember doing either for him. My own parents did not celebrate the day when I was growing up, so I didn't think much of it aside from the occasional ping of jealousy when I would hear what friends had done with their loved ones on that day. On my part, it wasn't a dislike for the day, just simply believed that love should be shared every day. Eventually, I just didn't feel into it and wanted to thumb my nose at all the sugar sweet decorations each year as they came out, feeling they were there to personally taunt me that things in my marriage were amiss.
But then we had Agent M, and eventually Agent M hit kindergarten. Cue the 180 on my opinion. I wanted to decorate, buy Valentines for everyone we knew, and make cookies in the shape of hearts. This was not to be, as Agent M's dad and I were separated at this point and money was tight. Being a class room helper, I was happy to settle on helping 28 kids glue tiny paper hearts to hand drawn cards, and was over joyed to get not only a bag full of sweet things from Agent M, but also two Valentine's personally given to me by the two kids I worked with the most in class. Here I had been feeling unloved and very much single, but those little tokens of love written in sideways letters and delivered with big hugs around my waist made me feel renewed.
Talking about the day with a friend tonight, I kept trying to explain my feelings for Valentine's Day but could not peg my feelings for it just right. Finally, it hit me - I hate how the day focuses on the romantic aspect of love. More than the holiday itself, I hate how it has become marketed to single out single people more so on this day - why should a day claiming to inspire love cause such sadness? Couples are expected to plan big dates and give lavish gifts. But what about the love of friendship? What about the people who have decided not to date, or who still feel the sting of heartbreak? What about the people who have lost their loved ones to old age or illness? No bag of chocolate nor Hallmark card addresses these audiences.
This presents the dilemma of how to celebrate the holiday with Agent M with genuine love without feeling like a big faker. My friend made a joke about me just not wanting to be "a grumpy old fart" and that's when the heart shaped light bulb went on over my head. When I was a teenager, my grandmother had spent some time in a nursing home. As we visited, I was always concerned about the people who did not get visitors. My friend's comment made me think of those people (not exactly in the most polite way, but nonetheless...), and how easy it should be to contact a local nursing home or retirement community and see about bringing by some simple Valentine's treats and smiles. I haven't had the chance to fully look into it as I type this, but this idea has gotten me thinking about other little ways to cultivate love that day. I plan for us to make a few phone calls and emails to family that I struggle to stay in touch with. Agent M and I can make small cards with messages of love and deliver them with homemade treats to the women's shelter. Maybe even take a cue from Operation Beautiful and leave some post-it notes with words of encouragement in unexpected places. More than anything though, I want to show Agent M that even when your heart has been hurt, love will heal it and love can be cultivated all around us. I want him to go to bed that night knowing he is loved.