Elizabeth: Valentine’s Day Curmudgeon

Who could pass up chocolate dipped strawberries or heart-shaped cookies?

Unlike some of the others here on the blog, I didn’t need Michaeline’s reminder on Sunday to know Valentine’s Day was fast approaching though, frankly, it’s a holiday I’d just as soon forget.

That probably sounds strange coming from a romance writer and a life-long fan of Happily-Ever-After but the day unfortunately has some pretty negative memories attached to it.  While it may be a magnet for love for most, for me it’s when I got laid off from a job I loved – twice – and when my mom lapsed into a fatal coma.

Hardly the stuff of a cheery Hallmark greeting card.

You’d never know I harbored a dislike of the holiday by looking around my house or in my office at work though.  There’s a heart-shaped wreath on the front porch, a vase of fresh roses on the dining room table, and a Valentine-y plaque and a bowl of chocolate hearts on the corner of my desk.

It’s especially hard to be a complete Valentine’s Day curmudgeon after a trip to the local big-box-store.  I was hardly in the door yesterday before encountering cases of champagne, bouquets  of roses, boxes of heart-shaped cookies, and a whole display case of chocolate dipped strawberries.  It would have taken a harder heart than mine to pass those by and I’ll admit that both cookies and strawberries found their way into my cart along with the items I was actually there for.

My favorite Valentines are those handmade with love.

While Valentine’s Day is technically a holiday for lovers, some of my favorite memories around the day are from way back in the Dark Ages of grade-school when it was a day for exchanging silly cards with classmates while enjoying cupcakes, punch, and those little candy Conversation Hearts.

While I don’t have any cards kept from those days (and I hope there aren’t any of those Conversation Hearts stuck in a box somewhere), I have kept some of my favorite Valentines – those I’ve received through the years from my son, including the one pictured here from preschool, when he was too young for writing, but not too young for gluing.

It’s the simplest sentiments that can mean the most.

I thought of that while reading a recent book.  The characters werre celebrating their anniversary, not Valentine’s Day, but there was a very sweet exchange that I thought fit perfectly with the day.

Reine-Marie pressed the thick handmade paper between her hands, then she opened it.

I love you, it read.  And beside it was a happy face.

“Did you draw this yourself?” she asked.

“I did.”  He didn’t tell her he’d worked on it most of the night.  Writing verse after verse and rejecting them all.  Until he’d distilled his feelings to those three words.  And that silly drawing.

It was the very best he could do.

“Thank you, Armand.”  And she kissed him.  She slipped he card into her pocket and when she got home it would join the other thirty-four cards, all saying exactly the same thing.  Her treasure.

(From:  A Rule Against Murder, Louise Penny)

No matter what day it is, what’s better than words from the heart?

So, do you have any favorite bits from something you’ve read (or written) that warms your heart this Valentine’s season?

5 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Valentine’s Day Curmudgeon

  1. I love that Louise Penny excerpt, Elizabeth! I am definitely going to have to give her another try.

    I love subtext, like the Gamache example above, where a few apparently banal words are the exact opposite; or when an apparently innocuous phrase means something private and personal. The best known example I can think of is The Princess Bride’s ‘As You Wish,’ which means ‘I love you,’ though it takes Buttercup a few years to figure out that’s what it means. That phrase has taken on a life of its own. I see it sneaked into all kinds of romance literature these days, and it always makes me grin.

    • Thanks for the reminder, Jilly. As you wish is a great example of an innocuous phrase that means something private and personal.

      As for Louise Penny, if you do decide to give her another try, I’d suggest going with A Rule Against Murder. It’s quite stand-alone and highlights the great relationship between Gamache and his wife. Sure, there’s murder in the story, but it’s about much more than that.

  2. I was picking up a card for Old Dog yesterday and came across a series of “Galentine’s Day” cards. I had to come home and look it up to discover that it’s a concept invented by Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) on Parks and Recreation–a February 13th gathering where women get together with their girlfriends for a champagne brunch.

    Happy Galentine’s Day, Ladies! I lift my virtual glass to you all!

  3. Oh, I’m sorry V-day has so much bad baggage for you. But . . . one must admit that it’s nice to have a holiday where you can treat yourself to strawberries and sweets!

    In Japan, Valentine’s Day is mostly in the hands of chocolate manufacturers, who promote it as a day for women to give chocolates to men — there are, of course, romantic chocolates, but there’s also obligatory chocolates for male co-workers. And, humans being humans, people felt bad about giving to the men, and decided to treat their Galentines with chocolates, too. A month later, there’s White Day, where everyone who got something on V-day is supposed to reciprocate (often with white chocolate).

    I read an article about a poll that said that recently, a lot of women buy chocolates for themselves, as well. (-: I don’t think the practice is new; just thinking to ask the question is new. I’ve always bought chocolates for myself (gotta try before giving them away, right?).

    It really can be a self-care day in the middle of one of the dreariest months of the northern hemisphere.

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