When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of love. There are many definitions of love and romance. There is the love between parent and child, of a spouse for a spouse, of a friend for a friend, of a citizen for their country, of an observer of a sunset or a flower. The hearts, doilies, cupids, candy, flowers, etc., are a part of that, but are only outward expressions of that love.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated most often as romantic love between two people. But for me, love is more than that between two people who are romantically linked. It is love of my family, my friends, my spiritual family, my pet, for those whose family or society has forgotten, the person who checks my groceries, waits on my table, provides me with a service that often goes unacknowledged.
When I was married, I loved Valentine’s Day with my husband. Although we did not share candy, flowers or jewelry, we would go out to dinner and buy each other some small gift we knew the other would enjoy. It could be a DVD, a puzzle, a book — something from the heart. The dollar amount was not a big consideration. It was a gift of the heart, designed for the person it was given to.
After my marriage ended, I instituted the Valentine’s Day Tea for two elderly aunts and a good friend. (I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the elderly, for those who have lived longer, seen and experienced more than I have. As a child, I loved to listen to the stories — by my grandmother, aunts and uncles, and their connections with the past. Through those connections, I felt a part of it all, part of a continuous chain.)
We numbered four women: two younger and two older, who gathered together and enjoyed an afternoon of tea in delicate cups and saucers, scones, cookies, small party favors, doilies, flowers and music. It was a time for us to celebrate the love between us. It was a big success. My aunts talked about it for weeks. So, the next year, we did it again, and the next and the next until I moved out of state. I had it for several new friends there and they wore hats and gloves, really dolling it up!
I now call it The Traveling Gypsy Valentine’s Day Tea, as I have relocated several times since the first one. My tea cups are carefully packed in a box that accompanies me in my car when I move. The tea has become a tradition. How many attend is not important. It is about love.
I send Valentine’s Day cards to my friends, especially those who live alone or are ill. I pass out candy to strangers I encounter, clerks in stores, cashiers in drive-throughs wherever I go. I say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” to people and enjoy their surprised expressions. It makes my day and theirs.
Although I miss romantic love in my life, I have the love of family. I have the love of friends I’ve known for a short time and the love of friends I’ve known for years, decades even. I have the love of my cat, who bestows it on me in his unconditional, totally accepting way.
I even have the love of strangers. When I feel particularly sad or depressed, I write love letters to strangers and leave them on park benches or on counters in stores or in shopping carts. It is a way to tell someone I will not see or meet that they matter, that they are loved, that their presence in this world is important. I will never know if the person who finds the letter really needed it that day and it made a difference, although I like to think that is the case.
Love. It really is all we need and what the world needs now, so very, very much.
Write a note, mail a card, make a call, send a text or an email. Say “I love you” out loud to someone. Say it again. Say it again. And again.