Don’t procrastinate any longer. Hie thee to the greeting card rack and pick out that valentine.
Any husband or partner who doesn’t remember his love in some way is inviting a stint in the doghouse.
The Greeting Card Association estimates that between 132 million and 145 million valentines will be sent on Feb. 14.
The saint and the custom of cards and gift-giving on Feb. 14 are rich with legend. Wikipedia shares one that St. Valentine was imprisoned because he secretly married soldiers who were forbidden to wed. Marriage was considered a drag on effective military service.
Among the few valentines sent by me this year are those to my first and current loves.
I saw my first-grade sweetheart two summers ago, when I visited her in a retirement center in Jonesville, 45 miles west of Winston-Salem.
Mary Kate Woodhouse was the prettiest and most popular girl in the class. On Valentine’s Day, her desk was covered with cards.
During the Great Depression, there was no money in my family for “store-bought” valentines. My mother always made a homemade valentine for Mary Kate Woodhouse. She fashioned them from scraps of cloth sewn to a cardboard heart, edged with lace.
Not every kid in the class received cards. I remember the sad faces of a few girls whose names were never called by the teacher as she pulled the valentines from the big box on her desk. The pain of being left out was as intense then as it is today. There’s no hurt quite like the hurt that children, then and today, suffer from the whims of their peers.
I understand that today’s children are protected from the Valentine’s Day wounding by teachers who see that every kid in the class receives at least one valentine. Despite our other flaws, we’re now more sensitive to children’s fragile feelings.
Valentine’s Day is a time for reminiscing. I remember an unusual love story I happened upon some years ago one New Year’s Eve when my wife and I attended an N.C. Symphony concert, followed by a midnight dinner at the Marriott Hotel Crabtree Valley.
I sat next to a 75-year-old woman who was celebrating the occasion with her new husband of a few months.
She reminisced about her first love, a man she had met when she came to Raleigh from an Eastern North Carolina town to attend a secretarial school.
She was 18 when she met Charles.
“Charles was the most handsome man I ever dated,” she sighed. “Since then, for some strange reason, I have been attracted only to ugly men. Good men – but ugly men. But not Charles. My! He was the best-looking thing!
“But you know,” she added. “I don’t think he even kissed me once the whole time we were dating.
“We would go out and park near Meredith College. It was safe to go out and park then. And you know what Charles did? Charles would strike matches and hold them up to my face and say, ‘My God, you’re pretty! You are one pretty woman, Martha!’
“Some nights he would burn up a couple of books of matches just looking at me.”
Charles had since died. But he had left a lasting mark on her memory.
When I related the conversation to my wife on the way home, she took a dim view of Charles’ courtship style.
“With my luck, Charles would have set my hair on fire while striking all those matches,” she chuckled.
February doesn’t have much going for it except Valentine’s Day and Ground Hog Day. There’s not much you can do about the latter, so make the most of the former and pledge to make every day Valentine’s Day for those you love.