Today, my next door neighbor asked me if she could give my 7-year-old a big long hug. I said yes, and then afterward, she hugged me. She said she’d lost her dad this day ten years ago and they’d just had his memorial at the beach. As we parted ways, I remembered something my late Dad did for me on a Valentine’s that has become the only Valentine memory I hold dear.
I don’t really remember celebrating Valentine’s Day growing up. I went to an all-girls Catholic school and I don’t remember making Valentine cards for everyone in the classroom like my 7-year-old does, and if we did, I have no memory of it at all.
What I do remember is the anxiety I felt when I was in eighth grade and I liked a boy from another school – and everyone knew it. It was especially bad when it turned out he was mean and made fun of me together with the mean girls he knew from my school. And so when Valentine’s day was approaching and the girls asked me if he was going to send me flowers, I didn’t know what to say. I was so stressed out that I asked my Dad who lived in a different city because my parents were divorced to send me roses for Valentine’s Day, but that he not sign it.
And he did (even though years later, he’d deny ever doing it).
Later that year, I purposely flunked eighth grade hoping that my parents would transfer me to a different school and away from those mean girls – which they didn’t – and so I ended up repeating the same grade. Despite the humiliation of having to repeat a year and being thought of as stupid or slow, it was the “Reset” button I needed in those tumultuous teenage years. I wrote poetry that was published in the school paper, wrote stories that had die-hard fans in Homeroom, and while things at home were still horrible, I actually found a bit of happiness in school.
But I’ll never forget what my Dad did for me that Valentine’s Day, and it’s the one and only Valentine’s memory that I have – and this, from my son today:
I’ll try my best to add this sweet card to the memories. If not, there’s always this blog.