I have never been the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day because I feel like forced or expected romance is just about the least romantic thing there is. And I actually care about the crass commercialization of love because I still believe in love, despite being a massive cynic in general. (Ironically, that word damn near ruined my perfect Wordle streak yesterday, although I managed to get it just under the wire.)
I’d a million times rather get a bouquet of unexpected flowers on a random Thursday than a dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day. And going out to dinner, when restaurants are packed and servers are cranky? Absolutely not. (See also: making soup in my pajamas.)
Over the years, though, my stubborn resistance to all things red, pink, and Cupid-themed has melted in the face of my kids’ enthusiasm for candy and cards and heart-shaped everything. Meanwhile, I love puns, and I love food, so I have jumped at the chance to give my kids cards that say, “I CEREAL-sly love you” while serving them their morning bowl of Lucky Charms, and I once slipped a coconut granola bar into my husband’s briefcase with a note that said, “I’m coco-NUTS about you.” They only tolerate this kind of nonsense one day a year.
Last year, though, I had one of my sweetest Valentine’s Day experiences, one that seems even sweeter (and sadder) in hindsight.
My dad came over on Valentine’s Day 2021 – it was the first time my kids had seen him since March 2020. He was now officially fully vaccinated and wanted nothing more than to give them each a hug and a bouquet of flowers for the holiday. He gave me some flowers, too, and then he left. I watched him walk slowly down our stairs and get into his car. He waited a second … and then he got out of his car and began the slow walk back up my steps. I went out on the porch and asked what he’d forgotten.
“I brought an extra bunch of flowers for your mom,” he said. “I’m going to go over and drop them off to her. But I forgot them on your dining room table.”
All the years of their courtship and marriage, my dad never made a single grand gesture like that. Suddenly, in the middle of a pandemic, after they’d been divorced for 30 years, he was going the literal extra mile to drive to her house and drop off flowers.
I loved that my parents still got along so well. And I’m still in shock that it was my mom’s last Valentine’s Day. The dining room table where my dad forgot those flowers is now heaped with piles of her stuff, yarn and books and artwork, stuff I can’t figure out where to put but can’t bring myself to throw out.
It’s a bittersweet juxtaposition, one that makes me sad but also smile fondly.
My dad, married and divorced five times, still wanted to share a Valentine’s Day moment with my mom. It meant a lot to her, and to me.
I think it’s why I still believe in love. And why I want to celebrate it every single day.