Eastern Wake: Opinion

Column: Won’t you be mine?

By Johnny Whitfield

Johnny Whitfield
Johnny Whitfield ehyman@newsobserver.com

Unless you live under a rock, or are just plain anti-social, you know Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day.

What’s more interesting, though, is that, apparently we know very little about the guy for whom we named this big holiday. Turns out the original Saint Valentine was martyred for some unknown reason. And whatever he did to earn sainthood is apparently lost to history.

The Catholic Church, which bestows sainthood on people, says he was elevated to sainthood for acts known only to God.

In the intervening 1,600 years, there have been a few other Valentine’s to earn sainthood or to be otherwise of note within the Catholic Church.

Regardless of who gets credit for the holiday, we wonder what they would think of the commercialization of their holiday. These days, Valentine’s Day is a smashing commercial success. People will spend billions of dollars buying all manner of cards, candy and gifts to bestow upon their loved ones.

It’s exactly what we need – another holiday that obligates us to spend money. I wonder sometimes why a holiday can’t just be celebrated for its meaning without spending a lot of money.

Despite my curmodgeonly outlook on the holiday, there is a point at which Valentine’s Day is pretty cool. Think: elementary school. In Mrs. Rogers’ third-grade classroom we spent the day before Valentine’s Day making and decorating these neat pocket folders that could hang on the wall in the front of the classroom.

The next morning, each student walked in the classroom with a notebook full of small, simple Valentine’s Day cards and dropped one in each student’s folder. At the end of the day, we got to pull the Valentine’s cards out of the folder and take them home to be read.

I don’t know how other students dealt with this task, but I took it very seriously. I looked through all my cards and picked out the one that had the best message for a particular person. I was careful to consider the messages I was sending with those cards, especially to the girls in my classroom. I didn’t want any of them getting the wrong idea that I might be serious about the “Be Mine” message on the card.

To be honest, if a girl in my classroom had walked up to me smiling a pretty smile and thanked me for the card I gave her, I most likely would have died right there on the spot. Those Valentine’s cards were serious business.

The fun part of the holiday, to me, was eating the candy that had little messages printed on them.

“You’re cool.”

“Won’t you be mine?”

“Hot shot”

“Kiss me.” No girl ever got that piece of candy from me in elementary school. Of that, I can assure you.

Still, it was fun to read the messages, even though it meant emptying the bag on the kitchen table and turning each piece of candy with the message side up. I can promise you, I ate more of that candy than I ever gave away.

With time, however, comes perspective. I don’t ask people to “Be Mine” any more, because my wife already agreed to do that and no one I know of needs or wants more than one wife.

Still, those Valentine’s cards are pretty neat and I’ll shun the beckoning commercial encouragements I see and settle for a less expensive way to remember my wife on Valentine’s Day.

After all, there isn’t a better opportunity to recognize someone than on a day nobody really understands what we are celebrating.

So if you’re running late, sprint, don’t walk, to the local grocery store, buy some of those checkout stand flowers or a box of chocolate. But don’t forget to invest in a card that says exactly what you want to say.